Creating healthier communities

Cantuhaon, Palompon is a remote town in the west of Leyte, a few hours from Tacloban. Its remoteness has made it particularly difficult for agencies to access the area, making it even more important that a health facility is constructed in the area with trained community health volunteers.

As part of the Movement’s community-based heath and first aid (CBHFA) approach, volunteers are trained on first aid techniques, and to address the health needs related to mother, newborn and child health (MNCH), noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), urban health risks, malaria, water and sanitation and hygiene promotion, among many others.

These are the stories of Zenaida and Anania, two community health volunteers  from Cantuhaon.

Philippines, Leyte, Palompon, Cantuhaon March 2015 Retired midwife Zenaida Nepomoceno, 62, from Barangay Cantuhaon has worked in the area since 1978. Even though she has retired from midwifery she continues to volunteer for nursing duties to help women and mothers. She says the new PRC/IFRC health facility will be a blessing for local women who currently endure a bumpy two hour car ride to the nearest hospital to give birth.

The veteran midwife

Before Zenaida Nepomuceno, 63, became a community health volunteer in her town in Cantuhaon in Palompon, Leyte, Zenaida previously worked as a rural health unit midwife for 37 years.

“I did maternal and child health care: delivery, postpartum care, newborn care and immunizations,” recalls Zenaida. “I was also involved in the common minor disease treatment.”

Although Zenaida already retired from midwifery a few years ago, she decided to become a community health volunteer so she can continue serving her community. She now works as a contractual midwife in the Rural Health Unit (RHU) birthing centre.

As a volunteer, she helps conduct health teaching through community health education sessions and household visits, from hypertension and healthy lifestyle awareness to road safety promotion.

“I think one of the most important things I learned as a community health volunteer is the act of volunteerism itself,” she says.”Even though I have been working in the health sector for over 30 years, I find the training a great refresher, which I apply when conducting classes and in our household visits.”

The Active Christian

Anania Rafaeles, 52, who also hails from the same barangay of Cantuhaon, is an active member of the Christian community. She teaches elementary pupils, and is a lector and a member of the church choir. Anania is also an active community health volunteer.

“I had always wanted to help my community be healthier,” says Anania. “Everything was new to me, the trainings, community sessions, household visits—even dealing with various personalities of community members. It gave me a better understanding on health care programming at community level.”

Anania learned how to conduct assessments using different assessment tools such as community mapping and seasonal calendars, to name a few. Along with Zenaida, they do community health education sessions and household visits.

Red Cross has trained over 1,000 people to deliver community health messages and support their local government health workers. With the completion of the new health facility, community health volunteers like Zenaida can now offer more health services and make health care more accessible for the residents.

“There’s no need to travel 13 km to go to the nearest birthing centre in Barangay Rizal,” says Zenaida.

The new health centre is also of great help to the pregnant members of the community.

“They no longer have to pay Php 2,000.00 (“Pakyaw”) for transport going to the birthing centre in Rizal,” says 73-year-old community member Lucita Onde. “As for me, being a senior citizen with hypertension, it will be easier for me to seek medical attention if I am not feeling well and also in monitoring my blood pressure.”

Interview conducted by Fatima Angelie R. Sibayan, one of the Movement’s Health Technical Project Assistants in Leyte.

International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies