Frontline health workers are the doctors, nurses, midwives, pharmacists and community outreach workers who directly provide health services. They are the skilled hands of health care.
In remote, rural and neglected areas, trained health workers may be the only health care. They live and work in their communities. By identifying and treating common infections and recognizing when a patient needs a higher level of care, health workers save lives.
At AmeriCares, we support health workers every day with medicine, supplies, training and other resources, and we work alongside them to develop innovative, sustainable health improvements in their communities.
Sophia B. Johnny, the only female supervisor at the Buchanan Ebola treatment unit, alerted her community when Ebola arrived. “I started educating people because if the community is affected, then I am also affected,” she says. “Before Ebola, people would laugh at me for hand washing.”
Sophia worked for years promoting health in Grand Bassa County and is now the Infection Prevention Control supervisor at the Ebola treatment unit there, which is supplied by AmeriCares and managed by the International Organization for Migration.
As an infection control specialist and mother herself, Sophia knows how fragile the Liberian health system is. A visit to a doctor or nurse is near to impossible. “In the rural areas, people don’t have access to checkups.Ghana has rural health centers but we don’t have them here in Liberia – in Grand Bassa, we only have the hospital.”
Sophia is realistic about the Ebola timeline in her country. “People think Ebola is over but it is not over,” she says. “If Ebola is in Sierra Leone or Guinea, then it is in Liberia. Everybody working here knows Ebola is not over.”
In Sri Lanka, Ishanna Punchihewa struggled to keep her tiny patients safe from infection at Trincomalee District Hospital in the northeastern part of the country. “We used to have two or three children per bed,” says Ishanna, who is a nursing officer. “There were no separate units for infectious and non-infectious diseases. We had a lot of chronic diarrhea.”
Then, in 2004, the Southeast Asia tsunami hit the island, destroying nearby health facilities and increasing patient load at Trincomalee hospital. With tsunami relief funds, AmeriCares worked alongside hospital staff and assessed needs, adding an 83,000 square-foot wing, which includes a pediatric ward where Ishanna works. “Now we have the beds we need and we can stop the spread of disease,” Ishanna says.
A project at Mullativu District Hospital, farther north, added a surgical ward and, just as important, apartments for more than two dozen health workers who might avoid the remote and rural location, where housing is scarce.
AmeriCares works with over 3,500 health partners around the world, providing support and greater safety for thousands of dedicated health workers who are the foundation for the survival and growth of healthy families and healthy communities. These are the health care heroes.