Project: Fostering Community Directed Distributors’ Resilience and Well-Being

Fostering Community Directed Distributors’ Resilience and Well-Being

This project aims to understand what knowledge, resources, and support is required to enable community directed distributors (community volunteers) to safely and effectively carry out their duties within a neglected tropical disease (NTD) programme.  This is in direct response to COVID-19 as mass drug administration activities begin to resume under the new World Health Organization guidelines.

Why is this important? 

Community volunteers are a network of hundreds of thousands of locally selected people trained to provide the correct dosage of medication to their community to protect them from NTDs. Not only are they vital to the success of NTD programme delivery, but they can play a crucial role in national COVID-19 response efforts, so long as they are well-supported, prepared, trained and protected. Based on previous research, community volunteers often work on multiple health programmes and are at risk of being overburdened.  They can also face challenges when supporting mass drug administration (MDA), like lack of awareness and trust issues within their communities.  Despite the critical role of these volunteers, little is known about how the COVID-19 pandemic will impact their work, both in terms of community acceptance and trust in NTD programmes, as well as their potential role in response activities.


This project will use a participatory action research methodology, an innovative approach to promote respectful collaboration, shared decision-making and ownership within the community. Community members, volunteers and NTD programme stakeholders will be engaged as peer-researchers to support key interviews, focus group discussions and participatory workshops. A set of tools will be developed to adapt existing volunteer training and supervision modules. These tools, which include the use of digital technologies, will be tested to see how they can support and promote the well-being of community volunteers amid COVID-19, and their effectiveness measured through an outcome evaluation.

Key Details

  • Organization: Bruyère Research Institute
  • Geography: Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana
  • Timeline: October 2020 – February 2022
  • Budget: £325,000

Expected impact

By building on previous research, this project will generate knowledge on how the effective engagement of community volunteers can boost their resilience. This will provide evidence on how NTD programming can provide entry points for COVID-19 response and readiness. The project will use community healing dialogues, adapt volunteer training and establish support for volunteers during their activities to improve performance and resilience. The knowledge gained will also impact on best practices for MDA, including how to maintain high MDA coverage, and will contribute to strengthening health system support functions for this vital human resource.

Future Learning

Through existing partnerships with international organisations and national ministries of health, the research team will share, adapt, and apply the lessons learned through this study in other contexts. Findings will be disseminated to other parts of the African region to inform guidance for the safe involvement of community-based NTD programme workers in COVID-19 response activities.