Have you heard of MEA? Tanzania Peace Corps Volunteer Nicole Sherman found this hidden gem of the Tanga Region and wrangled a 3rd year extension position to help with their malaria work and more. Nicole takes a moment to explain just what MEA does.
What is MEA?
Medicine Education Africa
When/how/why did it start?
In 1995, two English men established a non-profit organization entitled MEA to fill a void left by the Tanzanian Governments attempt to provide primary healthcare to villages in the Tanga Region. Both men discovered the immense improvement the Village Health Project had created amongst communities and sought to prolong the program after its complete demise in 1980.
What do they do?
MEA is a health project that supports over 250 health workers in remote villages across the Tanga Region. MEA offers first aid services and provides training and supervision to health workers, thus allowing them to supply stronger services to their fellow community members.
You can also find out more about our partnerships and donations by visiting the Community Health Care Direct Trust (CHCD) website at: www.chcd.org.uk
How did you get involved?
MEA has an office in my banking town of Tanga and is partnered with a village health worker of my former village at Misozwe. While working at Misozwe, I was very active at the clinic and wanted to continue working with health workers in a more extensive capacity. I was fortunate to connect with the present Project Advisor, Pamela Allard, in Tanga town. She needed assistance with trainings, particularly in the area of malaria, so I came aboard.
What do you like most about what you do? What are the biggest challenges working for MEA?
I feel an extremely strong connection to the community of Tanga, due to the fact that most of my service has taken place here. MEA allows me the opportunity to provide services to village health workers in this area that might not have been possible without proper resources and staff, such as: trainings/team building workshops, medical supplies, and donors. Although my employment has yet to fully mature, I have gathered my personal challenges of MEA stem solely from outside circumstances regarding accurate monitoring/evaluation of behavior change within the community.
Describe a work day.
My typical day begins around 8:30 a.m. and usually ends around 2 p.m. When there are trainings, the day starts at 8 a.m. and goes until 4 p.m. I am usually in the office 4 times a week, days may vary, but usually Mon-Thurs. Village health workers meet at the office every 6weeks to replenish medicine bags and discuss challenges/needs for work. We also have field work in the Pangani and Amani areas of Tanga which caters to village workers who are unable to travel to Tanga town every 6 weeks.
Tell us more about Village Health Workers…Are they male or female?
Village Health Workers are comprised of men and women- a total of 250 participants and growing.
What are their professions?
The workers come from various professions, such as: teachers (retired and active), assistant health workers and farmers.
How are they compensated for their work?
Through collaboration with their individual village government, each village worker is compensated according to the statutes placed by local government officials. MEA reimburses workers for transport and gives a small stipend for meals/incidentals for each day in town.
How often do they work?
Work hours vary. Some have designated days/times for community members to visit them at their home, while others work driven by demand. On average, it is estimated that workers provide care at least 2 to 3 times a week.
How many villagers does each one reach?
With village health workers operating in five major districts of Tanga (Amani, Lushoto, Mkinga, Muheza, Pangani and Amani), the projected number of community members reached is more than 121,000 community members and growing. We have a follow up/monitoring and evaluation field activity scheduled soon that will help verify numbers for the new fiscal year.
Do they work with specific groups – mothers, families, schools?
All demographics are reached.
How long have they been working?
Twenty-nine of the health workers who participated in this year’s training have been with MEA for upwards of 18 years, while seventy-one participants began in 2000.
Trainings you participated in:
Since my arrival in August of 2012, I have participated in a total of 4 trainings for MEA.
Was this their first training?
No, MEA’s previous training occurred in the year 2009.
Any trainings planned in the future?
Yes. It is understood that MEA will work to provide 1-2 trainings per year in an effort to increase participant moral and recruit new village health workers from different villages.
How are they selected?
Each individual is selected by their own local government officials to attend MEA trainings in Tanga town, operating on a rotating basis. They go through an extensive training for 1 week and are given a pre/post test to determine their eligibility.
When and where were the trainings?
Trainings for this year of 2012 took place on August 21-22 and 27-28 as well as September 3-4 and 5-6. The venue for all of the trainings was at the MEA Office located in Tanga town.
How many people attended each training?
August 21-22: Total Participants: 22
August 27-28: Participants 1st Day: 25
2nd Day: 24
September 3-4: Total Participants: 25
September 5-6: Total Participants: 25
How far did they travel to get to the training? How did they travel?
Most traveled up to 6hrs from their individual villages. All forms of transportation were taken: bicycle, walking and coaster.
How are you following up with the trainees?
Most of the village health workers have to come in to refill their medicine bags, so we use this time to discuss any challenges that they are facing while offering support of supplemental materials and handouts from our small resource library. This resource library consists of outlines from topics discussed during training and feedback.
What kind of supervision do/will they have?
Supervision of medical supplies and proper use is offered by MEA Staff. All village health workers are responsible for the maintenance of the medicine provided and required to return all unused supplies to the MEA office.
How does reporting work? Who do they report to?
Health workers report to their individual village government; to clinics for referrals; and every 6 weeks to MEA where we measure unused medicine and give bag inspections.
What are they reporting?
They report on specific health cases they encounter and its prevalence within the community they live. Health issues such as: worms, anemia, dehydration, pneumonia, conjunctivitis, scabies and fever.
How do they submit reports?
Every 6 weeks health workers submit their reports to MEA, and it is documented in the patient register book under each worker’s full name.
Although MEA is a small operating NGO by some standards, the organization delivers big. All of our programs are built with the intent of increasing and sustaining the livelihood of community members living in and around the Tanga Region.