WEEK 9: Chalimongela & Kanyanga
I had a great week off for Week 8 of the placement – my parents visited for a holiday from Ireland and we explored Livingstone along with day tips to Botswana and Zimbabwe. Then I was back and ready to get stuck into the projects again. Mike and I headed out to visit both health facilities from Tuesday to Friday. The primary objective of this trip was to deliver the Samsung tablets and to complete digital training in Sortly (stock management) and Excel (spreadsheets) with staff. I had loaded the tablets with several useful offline apps and documents and guidelines, and it was exciting to discuss with them the different ways the tablets could help to improve the efficiency and quality of patient care delivered at the health posts. I also entered all the inventory from the stock rooms to the Sortly apps so that stock levels and changes can be monitored over time. All staff members successfully completed the training package and we left the devices with them. Myself and future volunteers will monitor and evaluate their usage at each visit, offer refresher training if needed and add more resources which can build capacity of staff.
Otherwise, I helped out in the general clinics. One patient came in with a deep laceration to his foot that had occurred in a farming accident. We cleaned the wound and stitched up under local anaesthetic, but the only painkillers available to him for afterwards was paracetamol, while he was in quite severe pain and definitely needed something stronger. It was another reminder of the really basic essentials that are lacking at the health posts, which we are trying to make improvements in.
I had a good chat with the Chalimongela team about their infrastructure priorities, as we will be applying to join a fundmatching campaign next month and have to decide on a suitable project for which to raise money. I also spoke to staff in both posts about their training needs. OCA has recently received funding to provide a mobile ultrasound and training for staff to use in pregnancy, so we wanted to see if there are other skills we could include in the training package.
WEEK 10: Livingstone
I had spoken to health post staff the previous week about the upcoming Child Health Week (20-25th June), which is a nationwide campaign to promote the health of children, including vaccinations, deworming, vitamin A supplementation and more. I’m very keen to get involved as my background is in paediatrics. They asked if I could produce written information in English and Tonga (the local language in Southern Province) to spread the word about the initiative and its importance. I designed some posters and my OCA colleague Emmanuel (who is from Kanyanga) kindly translated them for me. I sent these to the DHO and they asked if we could produce enough for the whole district. They also invited me to the Child Health Week training day in Simwatachela during the week of the 13th, which I’m looking forward to.
I had a meeting with our partnerships manager Emma about fundraising. The Big Give Christmas Challenge is an online annual fund matching event, where donations raised are doubled if the charity fulfils certain criteria. Most of the fundraising happens towards the end of the year but applications and preparations start in June. Last year OCA raised 10,000 GBP for a desperately needed mothers’ shelter in Kanyanga which is now under construction. We decided that in 2022 we will raise funds towards an emergency transport scheme for Chalimongela. This involves training community-based volunteers to ride bicycle ambulances to help patients in remote areas access health facilities in times of need. The model has been successfully implemented throughout Africa including Zambia and it could make a massive difference to the lives of the people in the areas where we work. I started working on the application and planning for the project and how we can fundraise for it.
Wednesday this week was Africa Day so some of the team went out for a lovely dinner to celebrate. One of the lads also had a costume party for his birthday that weekend and we had a great night. Really enjoying the work out here in Zambia and also making the most of the downtime!
WEEK 11: Livingstone
As the DHO and health post staff were so delighted with the Child Health Week content in Tonga, I created another poster about antibiotic resistance and Emmanuel translated. This can be added to the ongoing work we are doing in educating patients and staff about the importance of correct use of antibiotics. I had a chat with Michaela our volunteer programme coordinator about projects I’ve been working on during my time in Zambia and how future volunteers can continue them. We made some plans about next steps for digital training, stock management, prescribing practices and building capacity of staff, and Michaela is including summaries in an orientation package for the next doctors.
I continued work on the Big Give fundraising for the transport solution. Chansa, a Global Health Corps Fellow with OCA, had previously done a feasibility study on implementation of such a project in rural areas in Zimba district, so I read through his report on the topic. Next week I will be going to Chalimongela so I can discuss with the staff and get their input on how the transport model should be rolled out. We are then hoping to arrange a meeting with the District the following week to further plans. I will also get some photos, videos and stories which we can use for social media posts as part of the campaign.
This week I got started on my end of placement project report, summarising everything I’ve been working on out here and outlining recommendations for future volunteers. I’m aiming to get a good chunk of it done now as I expect my final three weeks in Zambia will be fairly hectic. I’ll have one week in each of Chalimongela and Kanyanga, and a week in between with hopefully a meeting in Zimba, training in Simwatachela, and an OCA team building day in Livingstone, not to mention our finance officer Henry’s wedding in Lusaka. I’m particularly excited about the latter – I think a traditional Zambian wedding is going to for sure be a memorable experience!
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