Community health workers vow to lead right to health campaigns

Community health workers who completed the basic health skills training conducted by the Council for Health and Development (CHD) vowed to lead health campaigns and educate, organize and mobilize more people to struggle for their right to health.

At her age of 78, Nanay (mother) Francing should be the one to receive proper health care; instead she has chosen to provide it.

Nanay Francing is one of the those who have completed the basic health skills training conducted by the Council for Health and Development (CHD) last September 8 at barangay San Antonio in Paranaque City, becoming the latest community health workers trained under CHD's right to health program. Third World Health Aid has been CHD's partner in the latter's task to build the capacity of people's organizations to set up people-managed health care system at the community level as part of strengthening the broader movement for social change. The training includes understanding of the root causes of the country's health situation and diagnosis, prevention and treatment of common diseases. The basic health skills training is a prerequisite activity for the formation of a health committee that will take the lead in the right to health campaigns and health services delivery.

Paranaque City is located at the southern part of Metro Manila. Several large-scale reclamation projects are in the offing to convert some of its areas to tourism, entertainment, business and commercial districts. Most of these areas have been home to several urban-poor communities which are now facing threats of demolition. The development projects are in line with the national government's public-private partnership (privatization) program. It is the centerpiece of President Aquino's economic program to solve the most pressing problem of budget deficit by attracting participation of the private sector in infrastructure development. But contrary to its declared purpose, PPP has become the most convenient way for profit-driven big local and foreign corporations to control strategic infastructures such as power generation, water utilities, rail transit and others at the expense of the poor who comprise the majority of the population. In many cases, infrastructure development under PPP has led to dislocation of poor communities affected by the projects.

In a graduation ceremony held at the village daycare center, the participants received certificates to officially recognize their completion of the basic health skills training. Besides performing basic diagnosis and treatment for common diseases as well as making referrals for patients who need higher level of services, they are also tasked to take the lead in educating, organizing and mobilizing people in the campaigns for the right to health and other issues affecting their community.

"I know I cannot perform some functions anymore like getting bp (blood pressure) but I can still help in diagnosing common diseases and treating them with herbal medicines. If they need me, I am always available," said Nay Francing.

Nanay Francing and the rest of the new community health workers have long been active in the struggle for the right to health and proper settlement. They are constant participants in rallies against privatization of government hospitals as well as government policies and projects that threaten their village such as demolitions. But upon completion of the basic health skills training, they have committed to step up to a higher level of service by becoming health activists and leaders for societal change.

"Although I am old, I am always present at rallies. They said I should just stay at home; but as long as my body permits, I will not stop" continued Nay Francing.

Although the village, which is situated beside a creek, is not part of the areas under the current reclamation projects, the residents, nonetheless, face demolition by virtue of the government's no-build zone policy where danger zones like creeks and riverbanks are cleared of structures to reduce risk during typhoons and floodings. Although the intention is seemingly good, the residents are against the policy because the government has no clear relocation program and the so-called clearing of "danger zones" is just being used to drive away the residents to pave the way for the development of the area. In fact, a neighboring village had already been demolished to start the construction of condominium buildings and a commercial complex.

But Nanay Francing need not worry because there are many others who are willing to follow her path. Like June, one of the graduates, who at 18 years of age has pledged to give more of his time in the health campaigns and health service delivery.

"I am willing to learn more so that I can serve more," said June.