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Why One Million Community Health Workers?

In sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), 10-20% of children die before the age of 5. Maternal death rates are high and many people suffer unnecessarily from preventable and treatable diseases, from malaria and diarrhea to tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. Community health workers (CHWs) are known to deliver life-saving health care services that can address these health issues where it’s needed most, in poor rural communities. CHWs also help keep track of disease outbreaks and overall public health, and offer a vital link between undeserved populations and the primary health care system.

CHWs have been recognized for their success in reducing morbidity and averting mortality in mothers, newborns, and children. They have proven crucial in settings where the primary health care system is weak and represent a key solution to address the realization that there are not enough skilled health workers to meet the growing needs of people in SSA. However, it is important to recognize that CHWs are most effective when properly supported and deployed within the context of an appropriately financed health system.