Global Health Action
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ommunity health volunteers are considered a vital part of the community health structure in Africa. Despite this vital role in African health systems, very little is known about the community health volunteers’ day-to-day lived experiences providing services in communities and supporting other health workers. This scoping review aims to advance understanding of the day-to-day experiences of community health volunteers in Africa. In doing so, this review draws attention to these under-considered actors in African health systems and identifies critical factors and conditions that represent challenges to community health volunteers’ work in this context. Ultimately, our goal is to provide a synthesis of key challenges and considerations that can inform efforts to reduce attrition and improve the sustainability of community health volunteers in Africa. This scoping review was conducted using the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic reviews and Meta-Analyses extension for scoping reviews checklist to achieve the objectives. A comprehensive search of six databases returned 2140 sources. After screening, 31 peer-reviewed studies were selected for final review. Analytical themes were generated based on the reviewers’ extraction of article data into descriptive themes using an inductive approach. In reviewing community health volunteers’ accounts of providing health services, five key challenges become apparent. These are: (1) challenges balancing work responsibilities with family obligations; (2) resource limitations; (3) exposure to stigma and harassment; (4) gendered benefits and risks; and (5) health-system level challenges. This scoping review highlights the extent of challenges community health volunteers must navigate to provide services in communities. Sustained commitment at the national and international level to understand the lived experiences of community health volunteers and mitigate common stressors these health actors face could improve their performance and inform future programs.
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