In Nepal, National Female Community Health Volunteers (FCHVs) Day is celebrated every year on 5 December. Globally, 5 December is commemorated as the International Volunteer’s Day. This year marks 15th annual National FCHVs day and has a theme "महिला स्वास्थ्य स्वयं सेविकाको निस्वार्थ सेवाः स्वस्थ, समृद्ध राष्ट्र निर्माणमा टेवा".
FCHVs day aims to honor the volunteer contributions done by FCHVs in improving the health status of Nepalese. The FCHVs program initiated in 1988 has now 51,470 FCHVs (DoHS, Annual Report 2016/17) in Nepal, 92% of them working in remote areas (47,328 at rural/VDC level and 4,142 at urban/municipality level).
Many representatives from different agencies, NGOs and government ministries gathered on 5 December every year to celebrate the essential role played by FCHVs. It is a special day as different events and activities are organized around the country that highlights the contribution FCHVs have made in improving health situation particularly reducing maternal and child mortality. In this day, best working FCHVs are also honored with certificates for their selfless efforts and hard work.
The government initiated the Female Community Health Volunteer (FCHV) Programme in 2045/46 (1988/1989) in 27 districts and expanded it to all 75 districts thereafter. Initially, one FCHV was appointed per ward following which in 2050 (1993/94) a population-based approach was introduced in 28 districts. There are 51,416 FCHVs with 46,088 at rural/VDC level and 5,328 at the urban/municipality level. Urban FCHVs are mobilized through municipalities, while rural FCHVs are mobilized by local health posts or PHCCs.
FCHVs are selected by healthy mothers’ groups. FCHVs are provided with 18 days basic training following which they receive medicine kit boxes, manuals, flipcharts, ward registers, IEC materials, and an FCHV bag, signboard and identity card. Family planning devices (pills and condoms only) iron tablets, vitamin A capsules, and ORS are supplied to them through health facilities.
The major role of FCHVs is to promote safe motherhood, child health, and family planning and provide other community based health services to promote health and the healthy behaviour of mothers and community people with support from health workers and health facilities. FCHVs distribute condoms and pills, oral rehydration solution (ORS) packets and vitamin A capsules, treat pneumonia cases, refer serious cases to health institution and motivate and educate local people on healthy behaviour. They also distribute iron tablets to pregnant women. FCHVs distributed 10 million packets of condoms in FY 2072/73 (2015/16). Service statistics show that more than a half of diarrhoea and ARI cases were treated by FCHVs in this year.
The government is committed to increase the morale and participation of FCHVs for community health. Policies, strategies and guidelines have been developed to strengthen the programme. The FCHV programme strategy was revised in 2067 (2010) to promote a strengthened national programme. In fiscal year 2064/65 MoH established FCHV funds of NPR 50,000 in each VDC mainly to promote income generation activities. FCHVs are recognised for having played a major role in reducing maternal and child mortality and general fertility through community-based health programmes.
The goal and objectives of the FCHV Programme are
- Improve the health of local communities by promoting public health. This includes imparting knowledge and skills for empowering women, increasing awareness on health related issues and involving local institutions in promoting health care.
- Mobilise a pool of motivated volunteers to connect health programmes with communities and to provide community-based health services,
- Activate women to tackle common health problems by imparting relevant knowledge and skills,
- Increase community participation in improving health,
- Develop FCHVs as health motivators, and
- Increase the use of health care services
>> Source: Department of Health Services, Ministry of Health, Nepal