UNICEF Ethiopia Pilots Talking Books to Aid Community Health Workers in Somali Region
Updated: Mar 28, 2022
Sueda Abdurahiman, a community health worker, is profiled in a video about UNICEF Ethiopia's Talking Book pilot project in Somali Region. Photo: UNICEF Ethiopia
Ethiopia's Somali Region has a population of over six million living in rural areas. Barriers such as remoteness, low literacy, and lack of electricity or internet make it difficult to deliver health education and services to the most vulnerable populations.
To address this challenge, UNICEF Ethiopia is piloting Amplio Talking Books to support community health outreach. The team is distributing 500 devices to community health workers and mentor mothers (community volunteers) to support consistent and accurate health education delivery. So far, they have distributed 100 Talking Books to health workers at 100 health posts across eight woredas (districts).
For UNICEF Ethiopia's pilot project, Talking Book audio content includes maternal, newborn, and child health (MNCH) messages and COVID-19 risk communication messages. Other topics include nutrition, hygiene, and cholera.
Watch UNICEF Ethiopia's video about Sueda, a health extension worker in Somali Region.
The challenge for rural community health workers
UNICEF's video, A Day in the Life of a Health Extension Worker, profiles Sueda Abdurahiman, a community health worker who lives and works at a rural health post in Kebribeya Woreda. Sueda works by herself from early morning until late in the day to vaccinate children, provide medical care for pregnant women and mothers, and attend to other patients. In the evening, she visits mentor mothers to review their work, share ideas, and provide ongoing training about health education campaigns.
"During the day I don't have time to care for myself, so the members of the community bring me food," Sueda said. "If I did not love my profession, I would not be here. I use my education to make a living and serve my community."
"The standard is that you should have at least two health extension workers at the health post but you find that most of the time the facilities only have one. So what we're trying to do is introduce the Talking Book."
Olusola Oladeji, a UNICEF health specialist who is leading the Talking Book pilot, said that Sueda's situation is the reality for many extension workers.
"The standard is that you should have at least two health extension workers at the health post but you find that most of the time the facilities only have one," Olusola said.
"So what we're trying to do is introduce the Talking Book."
In addition to her duties at the health post, Sueda also supervises mentor mothers. Photo: UNICEF Ethiopia
Empowering extension workers and mentor mothers
With the battery-powered Talking Book, extension workers like Sueda can play messages when and where it's convenient. Because the device is designed for low-literate users, community volunteers with low or no literacy skills can easily use it too.
"I use the Talking Book to conduct educational campaigns," Sueda said. "It assists in explaining to individuals who do not have a clear understanding. The educational campaign focuses on three issues: cholera, covid-19, and family health guide."
In addition to placing Talking Books at health posts, UNICEF Ethiopia is also putting devices into the hands of mentor mothers to support their health outreach. UNICEF Ethiopia also distributed 1,250 solar lamps as a nonmonetary incentive to motivate community health workers, who often have limited access to electricity.
UNICEF's pilot project in Somali Region is supported by the Department of International Development (DID) and the Government of Japan.