Nov 28, 2016

Getting Better Together

Working with the local health services
Working with the local health services

Better Together

We can achieve some things alone but we believe it’s always better together. At On Call Africa we believe in the power of volunteers and healthcare professionals from Zambia and beyond working together to improve access to healthcare.

We recently spoke with several people who have worked alongside our teams over the past few months.

One nurse based at on of the Rural Health Centres in the area we work told us about her experiences of working with our volunteers: “It is good to work with On Call Africa. The CHWs that have been trained reduce the workload on me and decongest the RHCs because they are able to treat simple illnesses in their respective health posts. Some of the patients were actually dying right up there in their homes because of the distance they could not cover to come to the RHC to get medical attention. We are now able to reach each and every individual.”

A senior healthcare professional working in our target area agreed, explaining: “We as Zimba District, like Kazungula, are really benefiting from the partnership with On Call Africa. The help rendered aids reaching three areas - Pukuma, Chalimongela & Chikuyu - which are among our furthest catchment areas.“

Our partners and volunteers all emphasized that the three aspects of On Call Africa’s work are vital. Mobile clinics provide immediate treatment, but our health education programme and training of community health workers is vital in creating long-term improvements.

A volunteer doctor from the UK summed up the approach: “The exceptional benefit of working with On Call Africa is that doctors can help create something sustainable through education. The community health care workers all have a real eagerness and enthusiasm to learn.”

The training of local people to pass on key messages about health was seen to be life-saving by one of the local nurses: “Maternal health has been a challenge for some time. It's sad to see a woman dying who's giving birth due to the fact they didn't know about danger signs.  Now they have CHWs that live with them in their community who teach them and tell them about the danger signs.”

The senior healthcare professional underscored the same point: “We are glad to stress that we are getting a lot in the partnership; and, most importantly, for the sake of sustainability they mentor and train some of the Community Health Workers and volunteers who will help reach the community by quickly identifying severe conditions while all the more increasing health awareness in the community. This ultimately helps the District and the nation as a whole bring healthcare as close to families as possible."

On Call Africa is committed to working with partners to improve access to healthcare over the long term. Thanks to your support we are helping people to get better together.

Training local volunteers
Training local volunteers
Intra-organisational Partnership
Intra-organisational Partnership
Aug 26, 2016

Doctors On Call

Where we going we don't need roads!
Where we going we don't need roads!

A typical day in Zambia

We load up the Landcruiser, water and paperwork on top, food and medicines inside. There's space for two or three in the front and another four in the back. It's a beast capable of almost any terrain, though we drew the line at a four feet deep, 30-yard wide river. Strapped in we are ready to go with our local project assistant directing us along with four doctors and a co-ordinator.

Down the highway, built buy the Chinese recently, we travel in serene bliss before taking a left onto what could loosely be termed a dirt track.  Goats, guinea fowl, remnants of crocodile farms, and hand sewn fields of maize flit in and out of view with another car the exception,  and pedestrians the norm, each smiling and greeting happily. 

Villages are passed by – the closer to the highway the better – the biggest with a bar selling fermented maize and sometimes direct power, all with boreholes and a school.  We base ourselves at the rural health centre and speak to the nurse before settling down to night under the stars in our camping pods.  Each morning we rise with the cockerels and travel across to the most difficult to access villages, where On Call Africa is often the only team of doctors to ever have arrived there. 

Clinic is under an open thatched adobe hut or in a school or maybe just a building with half a roof. Wherever it is people arrive. Some have walked with their children through the night arriving at 3am or 4am so they are first in the queue; others pitch up through the day after working in the field. Assisted by a team of volunteer local translators we work though the queue. Nobody complains of waiting too long or the cost of admission (a book is needed which costs 3 pence, we charge to encourage people to bring it back).  People are grateful and willing to engage and the days are long but rewarding.

Probably the most beautiful clinic in the world
Probably the most beautiful clinic in the world
Working with dedicated local volunteers
Working with dedicated local volunteers
Jun 1, 2016

Training Community Health Workers

CHW Residential Training in Livingstone
CHW Residential Training in Livingstone

During the first week of June 2016, thirteen CHWs are attending their fourth residential training week in Livingstone, with a further two weeks planned before they conclude their year’s training.

On Call Africa intentionally prioritises one of our important strategic aims - to create a sustainable system of healthcare for the rural communities with which we work. A key focus of our work is training Community Health Workers. (CHWs) Each village has one or two local volunteers whom On Call Africa is training in key clinical knowledge and skills.

Our team of volunteer doctors are delivering the training through a combination of residential training weeks alongside in-village mentoring, support and assessment. The aim is that with up-to-date knowledge and skills the Community Health Workers will be equipped to take a lead in supporting the health of their community in liaison with rural health centre staff.

On Call Africa’s training programme reflects the Zambian National Strategic Health Planwhich aims to: “Provide appropriate and coordinated training to CHWs, in order to mitigate the shortages of health workers, and scaling up in health promotion at community level”.

We're often asked what the Community Health Workers learn about during their training, so we've included in this report a summary of the important skills and knowledge which they are acquiring over this year.

Core competencies covered during CHW Training

  • Basic clinical skills
  • Clinical knowledge base
  • Communication and problem solving skills
  • Clinical management skills  
  • Basic laboratory skills
  • Clear written recording skills
  • Professionalism and working with colleagues

Key clinical concerns covered during CHW Training

  • Serious illness  
  • Respiratory disease
  • Gastrointestinal disease
  • Musculoskeletal problems
  • Malaria
  • Nutrition and clean water
  • Sexual health including family planning and HIV
  • Maternal Health and antenatal care
  • Child health and immunisations
  • Skin problems - wound management and rashes
  • Public health
  • Being a community leader and an ‘agent for change’
CHWs watching training video
CHWs watching training video
Learning about malaria
Learning about malaria
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