The last 3 weeks of my placement in Zambia were full of excitement and a great way to finish it off. I visited both Chalimongela and Kanyanga one more time, participated in meetings to discuss future plans for myself, new volunteers and OCA volunteering in general, attended the wedding of our friend Henry in Lusaka, took part in an On Call Africa team away day, and was involved in Child Health Week.
WEEK 12: Chalimongela & Lusaka
I had discussions with the staff about how the transport scheme should look and developed recommendations that we could bring to the District Health Office the following week. I also added new resources to the tablet, including info for Child Health Week, patient education, treatment guidelines and On Call Africa strategy. On one of the nights, we watched Zambia beat Comoros 2-1 with a last-minute free kick on Patrick’s solar-charged TV.
That weekend, the OCA team travelled to Lusaka to attend the wedding of our finance officer Henry. It was an incredible night, a traditional Zambian wedding with awesome music and dancing and an experience I’ll never forget.
WEEK 13: Livingstone
We had a meeting with a representative from Virtual Doctors on Monday. The purpose was to discuss collaboration between OCA and VD in future projects. Both organisations have been involved in antimicrobial stewardship initiatives in Zambia. We agreed on forming a working group with the intention of providing educational material to local healthcare workers and future volunteers on this topic. We plan to work closely with the MoH to achieve our collective goal of improving antibiotic prescribing practices in rural Zambia. I’m looking forward to staying involved with OCA and this project after I have returned to Ireland.
On Wednesday a group from OCA travelled to Zimba for a productive meeting with the Dr. Zulu and her District Health Office team. Oscar from Kanyanga was also in attendance. The objective was to discuss our current and future projects and ensure that there was agreement with the DHO and health posts before progressing any further, and making changes if necessary. Alignment with government policy is a key pillar of OCA’s work in Zambia and I think this sets it apart from other NGOs, and is a major factor for the sustainable impact it has.
The following day was a team away day, where members from OCA’s two offices (Livingstone and Sesheke) got together for a highly enjoyable day of presentations, interactive sessions and team building activities. It was fantastic to get updates from each department in the organisation about their roles and future plans and I was particularly blown away by the incredible work being by the Sesheke team installing water and sanitation infrastructure in
many different regions in Southern and Western Province. The highlight of the day was a beautiful lunch on a boat cruise down the Zambezi river, where we got to see hippos and crocodiles up close.
WEEK 14: Kanyanga
For my last week in the country, I travelled to Kanyanga with Mike and Caesar for Child Health Week. This is a bi-annual event in Zambia coordinated by MoH which aims to improve the health of children nationwide through effective public health interventions. These include growth monitoring, deworming, vitamin A supplementation, catch-up of routine vaccinations, and specific vaccination campaigns which vary by year.
With the Land Cruiser, we visited 6 of the furthest 15 zones; the local staff were able to cover the others by motorbike. The specific vaccination campaign was HPV for 9-15 year old girls. Unfortunately, there was a district-wide shortage of vitamin A, so the DHO planned instead to roll that out during the next polio vaccination campaign in July 2022. It was a really busy week with long days but highly satisfying too because we gave a lot of help to the Kanyanga staff in providing essential interventions to the children in the region. During the week I also followed up on digital training, and produced an outreach checklist to help staff ensure kits are fully stocked before heading out to rural zones.
We returned to Livingstone Thursday, and on Friday I got a lift to Lusaka with Rachel and Emma before catching a late flight back to Dublin. All that was left to do then was to finish my report so that I could pass on my projects to the group of incoming volunteers.
Volunteering with OCA has been an amazing experience from start to finish. I’ve loved every minute, have learned so much and it has been unbelievably rewarding to see the impact that our projects have made on the rural communities with whom we work. I’m looking forward to keeping in touch with the team and to excited to see how all the varied work done by OCA in Zambia progresses into the future. I’m very grateful to the teams in OCA, Kanyanga, Chalimongela and DHO, and everyone who I have had the privilege to work alongside in Zambia.
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