IFGH 2012: University Community Partnership Project: Community Selection Criteria and Readiness Assessment

January 29, 2012

Authors:Finlay, D

Author Affiliations: VSO Ireland

Option 2– Lessons from the field; project and programme evaluations; and syntheses or analyses Presented as – Oral Presentation (unable to present)


In Zimbabwe, the collapse of the health sector from 2007-2009, staff shortages and lack of essential supplies severely impacted the HIV and AIDS pandemic in the country, the poor being the most affected by poor access to health services


VSO uses the expertise of local volunteers in Zimbabwe, as opposed to international volunteers. Success at community level in reaching rural people living with HIV and OVC has been achieved by a ‘doctors outreach programme’ whereby experienced, local medical doctors and nurses volunteer on a weekly basis in disadvantaged communities.

This initiative was implemented by VSO partners the Child Protection Society (CPS) in Harare, and the Midlands AIDS Caring Organisation (MACO), in Zvishavane District. In 2010, MACO scaled up access to ART and psychosocial support by women and OVC. By year end, 488 and 945 women respectively were able to access ART. This success is attributed to the 12,316 home visits made by community volunteers in the year, and their referral of patients to the ‘doctors outreach programme’ undertaken in 4 rural clinics by 2 medical doctors working with MACO.

For the Child Protection Society (Harare) the ‘Doctors Outreach Programme’ targets OVC who are identified and referred by CPS health promoters and caregiver volunteers. The activity is supported by three medical doctors and three nurses, who volunteer free medical services on two Saturdays of every month.
VSO has procured medicines and materials that are used by the mobile outreach teams at both partner organisations. Doctors use their own vehicle but fuel is provided. They spend at least two hours attending to clients on a volunteer basis weekly. On average, 20 clients are attended to by each medical team during these CPS outreach visits.

Lessons learned:

An independent evaluation of the Irish Aid ‘block grant’ to VSO Ireland in 2011 highlighted this initiative as an example of ‘good practice’ to be replicated in other countries. The professionals are in full support of the programme and believe that more can be recruited, if they are sensitised in the right way and are involved with credible organizations in a structured programme.

Professional volunteers working alongside community based carers have had an unintended outcome of shifting the burden from the community caregiver. Community based carers are now able to mobilise patients, who cannot afford hospital fees, to get treatment through the outreach programme. Professional volunteers can train community based carers to conduct basic health screenings and to keep proper medical records.

Next steps:

At the VSO-RAISA Conference in November 2011 the Zimbabwe ‘Doctors Outreach’ programme was hailed as a strong initiative that will be replicated in other Southern African countries where VSO is working.


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