Community Health Support Agent
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The formal health system in Senegal is unable to meet all the health needs of the local population, particularly those living in communities with limited access to clinics and hospitals. Consequently, the Ministry of Health and Social Action (MSAS) is promoting community health as a way to improve access to basic health care and prevention services for the majority of the population. The MSAS created a network of basic health units called health huts, and each health hut is run by two Community Health Agents (CHAs). CHAs are volunteers from the community who have received training to provide basic health care. They are supported by Community Health Educators (CHEs) who are in charge of educating the community on disease prevention and the adoption of healthy practices. The CHAs and CHEs together compose the area’s community health workers (CHWs).
The Community Health Project aims to support a reduction in maternal and child mortality in Senegal. This a priority for the Government of Senegal and the Peace Corps works alongside other U.S. agencies engaged in ending preventable maternal and child deaths.
The Community Health Project seeks to (1) support CHWs to deliver quality health care and prevention services; and (2) improve utilization of community health services and uptake of healthy behaviors, particularly among pregnant women and mothers.
The Community Health Project uses a two-pronged approach.
• Support CHWs to improve their skills. A set of soft skills have been identified that will strengthen the impact of CHWs. Volunteers will work in primary or middle schools to create youth health clubs, so that students can act as informal CHE, called young relais, and apply their skills in the community.
• Support a cohort of pregnant women and mothers to adopt evidence-based maternal and child health (MCH) behaviors.
Volunteers will work with their Senegalese counterparts to carry out the following activities:
• Organize individual and group capacity building activities for CHWs. Group activities will consist of workshops and trainings, while individual activities will include coaching and mentoring through one-on-one interactions.
• Work in primary or middle schools to create youth health clubs that train students to be informal CHEs and apply their skills in their community.
• Conduct regular home visits to follow-up on a cohort of pregnant women and mothers of under-2-year-olds and ensure their utilization of MCH services and application of recommended health behaviors.
Peace Corps Senegal is implementing a plan to include gender equity and empowerment efforts throughout all our work, and to make them more sustainable. As such, you will receive training on gender challenges in Senegal and you will have the opportunity to implement gender-related activities that are contextually appropriate. Through this health project, you will empower youth via the young “relais” (community health volunteer) program; increase the involvement of men in Maternal and Child Health activities that used to only target women (men as partners); and target influential community members to help facilitate the adoption of health behaviors (behavior change communication). During your service, you will look for other ways to work with community members to promote gender-equitable norms and increase girls’ and women’s sense of agency.
As an actor in the development of Senegal, and a part of the wider Peace Corps effort to share our story with our counterparts and host governments as well as to bring that story home to the US, you will monitor and report on your work activities throughout your service.
A background or education in health is not required. Peace Corps training will equip you with the knowledge and skills needed to implement capacity building and MCH outreach activities. There will undoubtedly be challenges, but you will not be alone. Peace Corps/Senegal has an experienced health team ready to provide technical assistance, advice, and feedback.
Your work will truly make a difference and be critical in saving lives—the lives of mothers who are still dying from childbirth and the lives of under-five children who are still dying from preventable diseases. This is a priority for the Government of Senegal and each Health Volunteer provides essential assistance.
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree related to health or any bachelor’s degree supplemented by work experience in public health.
• 5 years professional work experience in public health, community development, positive youth development, or community outreach.
Experience in capacity building through training, coaching, and mentoring and experience with community organizing and/or behavior change is highly desirable.
Required Language Skills
Within the health system, meetings are conducted in French so it is advisable that candidates arrive with at least a basic level of French.
Senegalese dishes are tasty, usually consisting of a staple of rice, millet, or corn with vegetable sauces, sometimes with meat or fish. There is far less variety than to which many Americans are accustomed. Determined vegetarians may maintain their diet, but this further decreases variety. Some Volunteers choose to alter their diets in order to be more culturally aligned with a Senegalese lifestyle.
In some cases, if Volunteers do not have running water or electricity water is collected at a community pump or well, and light comes from oil lamps or candles. Communication systems have improved throughout Senegal over recent years, although cell phone coverage remains inconsistent or even non-existent in a few areas. You will be issued a simple cell phone. Internet is becoming more widely available, and can often be accessed through 4G for those Volunteers who own a smart phone or an internet dongle. Health Volunteers are encouraged to bring a laptop. Heat and dust in Senegal take their toll on electronics, so an inexpensive, hardy machine is recommended.
Senegal enjoys a good primary road system, but transportation remains a challenge. You will usually travel in crowded, shared taxis and buses over rough roads, particularly outside of urban areas. You will travel by bike or on foot or donkey cart for shorter trips.
Senegalese pride themselves on being well dressed and a neat, dignified appearance will say a lot about your desire to be accepted as a colleague. During pre-service training, the dress code is business casual and as a Volunteer, you will continue to dress in business casual attire for your work. There is a great deal of beautiful cloth available in Senegal, and many Volunteers enjoy having clothing made by local tailors. For women, clothing should not be overly tight and should cover you to below the knee. For men, long shorts are acceptable for manual labor and sports, but otherwise are rarely worn.
Through inclusive recruitment and retention of staff and Volunteers, the Peace Corps seeks to reflect the rich diversity of the United States and bring diverse perspectives and solutions to development issues. Our definition of diversity includes, but is not limited to, race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, religion, education, ability, and more. Volunteers who are of an American racial, ethnic, or national minority or whose religious or spiritual beliefs differ from the majority of their country of service may experience curiosity and unwanted attention from Senegalese nationals. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) Volunteers are welcomed within the Peace Corps Volunteer and staff community, and many LGBTQ Volunteers have served here successfully. However, it is important to note that same-sex sexual activity is criminalized by Senegalese legal code and punishable by imprisonment. Culturally, LGBTQ are not well accepted by many Senegalese, and LGBTQ Volunteers cannot safely serve openly. Please refer to the Local Laws and Special Circumstances of the U.S. Department of State’s travel page for more information.
Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Senegal: 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 Senegal
- Senegal may not be able to support Volunteers with the following medical conditions: asthma, including mild and childhood; insulin-dependent diabetes; gasteroenterology; requiring a psychiatrist for psychotropic medications support; seizure disorder; ongoing counseling.
- The following medication(s) are not permitted for legal or cultural reasons: none identified.
- Volunteers who should avoid the following food(s) may not be able to serve: peanuts and shellfish.
- After arrival in Senegal, 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 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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