Thomson McKnight


Community health volunteers (CHVs), when they are well trained, play an integral role in health education in Malawi.

Walking around the paths leading to Undi village, is a testament of the work CHVs do. You will see locally-made tippy taps (pictured above) placed outside most toilets. You’ll also see that most homes now have an additional tippy tap, with water and often a green ‘u-fresh’ piece of soap dangling on a string, as you enter. This makes it possible for people to wash their hands when visiting homes, something that is critically needed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

This is a feat that Stiya Gama, a Health Surveillance Assistant, and other health volunteers trained by Amref Health Africa on COVID-19 prevention, is excited about. “This will go a long way in infection prevention,” he says with a grin on his face.

Thomson McKnight lives in Undi where he owns a shop selling assorted items in the village. Entering his place of business he has a sign reading “I need to keep you safe” encapsulated in ubuntu. Like everyone in the village, he too has installed a tippy tap at the entrance of his compound and place of business.

We were taught by the [community health] volunteers that in order to be safe from the virus it is vital to wash your hands with soap. With many people coming to buy items here, I decided to make sure that they shop safely by installing the tippy tap,” he notes. “They have been going around advising us to be safe from the virus and encouraging us to have handwashing stations at the point of entry to our compounds. This way we are keeping our families safe,” says McKnight.

With funding from the Government of Canada through Global Affairs Canada, Amref Health Africa has trained over 6,000 CHVs in 6 districts in Malawi on COVID-19 prevention. The training is delivered through Leap, a mobile health learning platform that CHVs interact with using message features and Interactive Voice Recordings on their cell phones to learn about various topics.

After learning, the community health volunteers in Undi village – with leadership from Stiya Gama – decided to encourage their fellow villagers to install additional handwashing stations in front of their compounds to ensure everyone is safe.