According to the 31-year-old Community Health Volunteer with Martap Integrated Health Centre in Adamawa Region, offering priceless counsel to nursing mothers sometimes requires several home visits before they adopt the needed behaviour change.
Fadimatou Falmata, 31, has seen it all in 11 years of volunteering for five different national health programmes under Martap Integrated Health Centre in Vina Division of Cameroon's Middle Belt Adamawa Region. Located 120 km from Ngaoundere, the regional headquarters, the health facility is assisted in her work by 10 volunteers. Falmata talked to a group of five journalists from Yaounde in Martap village on September 5, 2019. As a Community Health Volunteer, CHV, she visits pregnant and nursing mothers at home on Saturdays and Sundays to check for cases of malnutrition and other health challenges. "Thanks to our efforts, husbands of nursing women now cooperate with us more than before," Falmata disclosed. Spotted and trained 11 years ago by local health authorities as a volunteer because of her ability to read and write, Falmata is today a priceless link between health staff and the community. "I love my work because it enables me to regularly meet and assist people with health challenges," said the single lady without a child. She added that her marital status eases her volunteering work for five different national health programmes. But quickly warned: "In this work, you need to be very patient. Sometimes I visit particular nursing mothers at home several times before they heed the counsel I give. While they hesitate to adhere to my advice, the nutritional situation of their babies deteriorates," Falmata underscored. Given her long years of experience, and with tact, she has always succeeded to prevent any deaths from Severe Acute Malnutrition. Soft-spoken and always beaming with a smile, Falmata's main challenge is the late payment of monthly stipends for some of her volunteering activities. Moreover, she is yet to start receiving the promised 10,000 FCFA monthly stipend promised by the United Nations Children's Fund, UNICEF. Concerned by this announcement are the 450 Community Health Volunteers in three pilot health districts (Ngaoundere Rural, Ngaoundere Urban and Meiganga) out of the 9 in Adamawa Region. Martap Integrated Health Centre is under Ngaoudere Rural Health District. On the other hand, Falmata's duties require a lot of movements as she visits pregnant and nursing mothers at home - often on foot. "The gift of a motorbike will be greatly appreciated as it will ease my work," she added.