Community Health Advisor

Before You Apply

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Project Description

The purpose of Peace Corps Madagascar’s health project is to support global and national efforts to ensure that all Malagasy have long and healthy lives by strengthening basic primary health care knowledge and practices in rural areas of Madagascar.

Madagascar is a beautiful tropical island, hosting more than 10% of the World’s biodiversity with untouched but endangered rain-forests. While serving as a Community Health Advisor, you will work alongside implementing community partners to facilitate health education and community outreach, as well as prevention and training programs. Implementing community partners may be local health professionals, Community Health Workers and mothers.

Most often you will use Design Behavior Change (DBC) tools to design activities for women, mothers, caregivers, men and heads of households using proven effective approaches such as Care Groups and Program “P” to engage men. Dissemination of health messages may also take place in village forums, theaters, festivals, schools or youth clubs; and through one-on-one mentoring, door-to-door visits or during informal social interactions. You may also have the opportunity to bring training opportunities to community health workers, building their professional capacity and increasing their effectiveness.

Peace Corps Community Health Advisors act as catalysts on a wide range of activities aligned with government and community priorities that seek to impact maternal and child health, nutrition, water sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and Malaria prevention and control. Therefore, your main role will be that of an educator, a facilitator, a liaison, a mentor, and a resource to assist your community.

Your work may focus on:

• Behavior Change through the use of evidence-based methodologies (e.g. Care Group model, which you will receive an intensive training on during In-Service Training)
• Maternal Health: working with Care Group mothers to encourage at least the four antenatal care visits (ANC) for safe pregnancies
• Child Health: working with Care Group mothers and training in essential nutrition actions and preparation of hygienic and nutritious food
• Disease Prevention: working with Care Group to improve infant and young child health through prevention of childhood illnesses (e.g. respiratory infections); and malaria prevention and control
• WASH Programs: working with community members and through school partnerships to reduce water-borne illnesses. Activities may include education on essential hygiene actions and hand-washing; building hand-washing stations; latrine use and maintenance; water treatment and storage
• Health Environment Interventions: Identifying concrete interventions related to water, sanitation and hygiene in households and schools, and various other health topics

Community Health Advisors are also expected to work with community members to develop secondary projects such as promoting sports for girls, improving community facilities, adolescent sexual health education, and life skills training. And while much of the work will take place during weekday daytime hours, some community activities may take place on weekends. Many Volunteers also work with their village officials to prepare large community-wide awareness events around International Malaria Day, Hand –Washing day, Latrine Day and World Aids Day.

Peace Corps Madagascar promotes gender awareness and girls’ education and empowerment. You will receive training on gender challenges in your country and you will have the opportunity to implement gender-related activities that are contextually appropriate. During your service, you will look for ways to work with community members to promote gender-equitable norms and increase girls’ sense of agency. As part of your work, you will also report on these efforts and their impact.

Required Skills

Qualified candidates will have an expressed interest in working in the health sector and one or more of the following criteria:
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any field
OR
• 5 years' professional work experience

Desired Skills

Competitive candidates will have experience with one or more of the following:
• Working with communities on planning and organizing health education and community outreach activities;
• Experience in a position of leadership;
• Experience working in any public health endeavor such as maternal and child health, nutrition, water and sanitation (WASH), as well as malaria prevention and control

Required Language Skills

There are no pre-requisite language requirements for this position.

Additional Language Information

While not mandatory, Peace Corps/Madagascar prefers that Volunteers have a background in Romance language (French) as it is an important skill in country.

Peace Corps/Madagascar therefore suggests that invitees take an intensive French course before departing USA for service. They may not use this much in their daily work since the primary spoken language is Malagasy (the sole language in which PCVs will be trained during Pre-Service Training, but many partner technical reports, newspapers, and food menus are in
French.

Living Conditions

Madagascar is a huge island nation – the fourth largest island in the world – and its terrain is very diverse, the climate can change drastically from the Coast to the Highlands. Volunteers are placed throughout the East Coast, the Highlands and the South East, and living conditions can vary greatly from one Volunteer site to another. Volunteers should be flexible, resilient, and willing to live in very modest conditions – likely without electricity or running water. Community Health Advisors typically live in small villages, often with a population less than 2,000.

• Housing: During service, Volunteers live in private one-room or two-room housing. House material often depends on the region, with walls made out of local wooden material in the Coast and concrete in the Highlands. Volunteers have individual outdoor bath houses and latrines, but often no running water or electricity. Some communities may have access to generators that can provide electricity/battery recharge, but that is not standard.

• Communication: Almost all communication is conducted by cell phone. Peace Corps will help you buy your phone during the first few days of Pre-Service Training if you did not bring an unlocked phone from the States. Call costs are based on the amount of minutes used and texts sent and are deducted immediately. Incoming calls and texts, even from the US, are free.

• Internet: Most Volunteers will have limited or no computer Internet access in their communities. However, it is possible for many to access very slow Internet or messaging apps through the purchase of small and expensive data plans for smartphones. Please be aware and inform friends and family that while possible, communication options are much more limited than in the States.

• Transportation: Peace Corps provides a bike, helmet, and basic bicycle maintenance training to assist you in daily routines such as biking to nearby markets or visiting sites around your village. You may also be required to walk or bike between 3 to 10 Kilometers to reach a main road or an outlying village where community partners live and work.

• Food: In Madagascar, rice is the staple. Other foods include cassava, sweet potatoes, potatoes and corn. Meat and fish could be expensive or difficult to find depending on the region where you serve. Fish is more present in the coast where and meat is in the highlands. If meat or fish are not available, a variety or beans and peanuts can be used as source of protein. Vegetables vary by region but most of them are produced in the Highlands. Strict vegetarian and vegans may be challenged, especially during Pre-Service Training, and should be mindful of food customs in Madagascar: turning down a plate because it has meat may be seen as rejecting a gift. Volunteers have found it possible but difficult to maintain a vegetarian diet in Madagascar.

Madagascar has no laws prohibiting same sex relationships or romantic involvement. Same sex marriage is not permitted. LGBTQ Volunteers in Madagascar are not victims of violence because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, but prejudice persists. Volunteers suspected by communities as non-cisgender, non-heteronormative may experience isolation, mockery, or difficulty in managing personal and professional relationships with Malagasy. There is a strong network of LGBTQ Volunteer serving in Madagascar today, and many who have successfully served in the past.

The cultural environment of Madagascar is an extremely social and welcoming one and Volunteers find it very easy to make friends. Although Madagascar has a rich story and fascinating culture, it is one of the poorest countries in the world, most volunteers experience emotional reactions to poverty and all that correlates to it. Volunteers must be emotionally mature and prepared to manage stress from living in such different conditions.

Malaria is highly endemic and PCVs must be prepared to take chemoprophylaxis without exception.

Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Madagascar: Get detailed information on culture, communications, housing, and safety — including crime statistics [PDF] — in order to make a well-informed decision about serving.

Medical Considerations in Madagascar

  • Madagascar may not be able to support Volunteers with the following medical conditions: asthma, including mild or childhood; gastroenterology; some types of gynecologic support; insulin-dependent diabetes; requiring a psychiatrist for psychotropic medications support; ongoing counseling.
  • The following medication(s) are not permitted for legal or cultural reasons: Adderall, Ritalin and Vyvanse.  
  • Volunteers who should avoid the following food(s) may not be able to serve: gluten, peanut, and shellfish.
  • After arrival in Madagascar, Peace Corps provides and applicants are required to have an annual flu shot, to take daily or weekly medication to prevent malaria, and to receive mandatory immunizations.

Before you apply, please also review Medical Information for Applicants to learn about the clearance process and other health conditions that are difficult to accommodate in Peace Corps service.


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