Two hours after leaving the town center, Markson dismounts his motorbike to cross the log bridge that leads to the remote village of Billibo. From here, he’ll have to travel on foot to mentor and coach the three Community Health Workers that serve the remote community.
The village of Billibo is in Konobo District, the region of southeastern Liberia where Last Mile Health was founded in 2007 and has since partnered with the Liberian Ministry of Health. Konobo is home to 15,000 people spread across last mile villages, many of whom must walk long and treacherous distances, down red dirt paths cut through dense green rainforest, to reach the nearest health facility. Markson Farley, one of Last Mile Health’s Community Health Worker (CHW) Leaders, works to expand the primary health system to places like Billibo by supervising, coaching and supporting CHWs to provide life-saving care.
Markson is from the village of Jeway, a few hours walk from Bilibo. It was in Jeway that he was recruited to be one of Last Mile Health’s first CHWs back in 2012. Originally trained as a schoolteacher, Markson was drawn to Last Mile Health’s mission to save lives in the world’s most remote villages.
In order to learn how to diagnose and treat his neighbors and fellow community members as a professionalized CHW, Markson underwent Last Mile Health’s rigorous year-long training program while working in his community. First, he was trained in community engagement and surveillance, where each member of his community was given a unique ID. After he began engaging in his own community, he was then trained in integrated community case management for child health; maternal, neonatal and reproductive health, with a focus on tracking all pregnancies, creating birth plans with expectant mothers, and providing access to antenatal care visits; and finally in adult health, with a focus on diagnosing and treating hypertension and other non-communicable diseases. Before Markson began serving his community as a CHW, his family, friends and neighbors had to endure a twelve-hour walk to the nearest clinic every time they needed healthcare. Finally, the members of his community had consistent and life-saving access to a health worker.
In January 2015, Markson was promoted to the position of CHW Leader. In this role, Markson supervises 13 other CHWs per week, who are serving communities just as he had, throughout Konobo District.
On Tuesdays, he makes the 36km journey by motorbike to Billibo to supervise Zarkpa Yeon, Alexander Nyanway and Stanley Quiah. Markson plays an essential role in Last Mile Health’s work to ensure they can are performing as true professionals in their field, providing mentorship, conducting reviews of patient care to ensure CHWs are delivering appropriate and quality treatment, re-stocking essential medical supplies and disposing of expired drugs. Speaking about one of the CHWs in Markson’s catchment area, he said, “He loves the work and understands what he’s doing. His forms are always completed correctly, and when we do patient audit, we find that he consistently treats the right patients at the right time.” Ultimately Markson plays an essential role in supporting CHWs to continue the difficult work of saving lives in remote communities.
Speaking about his experience as a CHW, Markson said, “This program has changed my life.”