May 1, 2015

Attempting to reach the most inaccessible areas

Open air clinic in Siajumba
Open air clinic in Siajumba

On call Africa’s vision has always been to provide equitable access to quality healthcare as close to home as possible. In Zambia, a geographically dispersed population, the tropical climate, and an under-developed infrastructure mean accessing target areas can be challenging.

This month our new off-road vehicle has arrived in Zambia and is already in action. Fully equipped as an ambulance it is able to transport our volunteer doctors and health workers to mobile clinics in the most inaccessible locations, and for the most serious cases help patients get from the villages to hospital. 

The most isolated area we serve is Siajumba, lying tucked away in the southeastern corner of Zambia close to the border with Zimbabwe. A population of over 3000 live here, although we would never guess as we drove many hours down what looked like a bicycle track with not a soul to be seen. Eventually we came across a huge river, completely impassible even for our 4x4 vehicle. Every year when the rains come and the river fills, the people of Siajumba become cut off from the rest of the Zambia. For three long months they have no contact with the outside world and no access to medical care.

We had been warned that it was unlikely we would be able to cross the river this month as the rains had come late. The community however were not planning to let the river to stop them and many patients had walked from their homes to the banks of the river to meet us as we arrived. Without a building to work from the medical team had to improvise and found a shady spot under a tree to set up clinic. Over the next few hours children received life saving immunisations, a patient was diagnosed and treated for malaria, and numerous other medical complaints were managed.

Even with our wonderful new vehicle, the challenge of how to reach this vulnerable community in the rainy season remains. A number of suggestions have been made including installing a bridge, or accessing the area by helicopter, and we continue to work with the community in the hope we can find a solution and be able to deliver the healthcare that the people of Siajumba deserve throughout the year.

Thank you as always to all of our supporters, we could not do any of this without you.

The river won't stop us delivering healthcare
The river won't stop us delivering healthcare
Under 5's vaccines from the back of the vehicle
Under 5's vaccines from the back of the vehicle
On Call Africa's new off road vehicle
On Call Africa's new off road vehicle

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Dec 31, 2014

Working to build sustainable healthcare

Providing on the spot medical care in remote areas
Providing on the spot medical care in remote areas

Over the past 3 years, On Call Africa has focused on bringing healthcare to where it is needed most. It’s operation is based on three pillars. The first uses mobile clinics to take healthcare directly to nine isolated communities in rural Zambia. The second focuses on health education, as prevention really is always better than cure. The third involves working to strengthen existing healthcare systems, including training local health workers and ensuring they are properly equipped to care for the immediate health needs of their community.

To date, On Call Africa volunteers have treated in excess of 25,000 patients, many whom had never previously met a doctor. We are proud to be recognised by the Zambian Ministry of Health as a provider of essential medical services in Zambian’s Southern province.

It is imperative in this work that On Call Africa is well integrated into existing services and works alongside, supporting rather than replacing current healthcare providers.

Collaboration with the Kazungula District Medical Office and partnering with medical staff from local rural health centres ensures our partners are able to engage more frequently with the populations they serve.

Over the past 3 years, together with these partners, On Call Africa has ensured that hundreds of children received a full programme of immunisations, enabled access to HIV testing and counseling, provided women with the opportunity to access family planning services and distributed thousands of male and female condoms.

Access to clean drinking water and malaria have continued to dominate our health education discussions. We have therefore linked with other NGO’s operating in Zambia which has allowed us to deliver water purification treatments and mosquito nets to those who need them most. We hope by establishing further links with locally based charities, that we will also be able to introduce bore holes in some of our most remote areas of operation.

Over the second half of this year, our focus has been on organisational longevity. A temporary break in mobile clinics has allowed On Call Africa to take steps towards expanding the organisation. Thanks to the overwhelming support of Rotary clubs throughout Scotland, as well as in Zambia, On Call Africa is now in a position to buy a brand new Toyota Land Cruiser ambulance. The ambulance will be fully equipped to transport essential medicines and equipment out to remote villages and allow the transport of critically unwell patients from these isolated areas to their nearest hospital. The health worker training programme is in its final stage of development and will be rolled out in 2015 across all nine areas, aiming to provide comprehensive training to eighteen community health workers. Finally, to ensure On Call Africa can sustain these advances, the position of On Call Africa UK coordinator has been created and we hope to have the position filled by the end of January 2015.

As 2014 draws to a close, we would like to take this opportunity to express our sincere gratitude to all of our volunteers and supporters, old and new. We are humbled by your generosity. It is only with your kindness, hard work and the belief in what we do, that we are able to continue this work. 

Everyone at On Call Africa wishes you a very happy and healthy New Year.

 

 

Community health education in rural schools
Community health education in rural schools
Under 5 clinic run by local health centre staff
Under 5 clinic run by local health centre staff
The journey out to clinic can be challenging!
The journey out to clinic can be challenging!
Aug 29, 2014

Integrating with Local Health Workers

Child Weight Monitoring in Mapatizya
Child Weight Monitoring in Mapatizya

As well as providing on the spot medical care and health education for communities in Zambia who live in difficult to access areas, On Call Africa also hopes to create a system of sustainable health care by providing training to local health workers.

The ‘community health worker’ (CHW) is an individual chosen by the local community and trained to deal with basic health problems and work in close relation to wider health services. On Call Africa works closely with local Community Health Workers (CHW’s) during monthly mobile medical clinics. CHW’s ensure their community is made aware of the free medical services available, run a child weight monitoring program during clinic days and provide translation services for international medical professionals who work on our clinics.

During On Call Africa’s pilot project in 2011, On Call Africa identified the degree of training, resources and support that existed for CHW’s. Due to the remote locations of these CHW’s, updates in training and provision of basic medical supplies were lacking. On Call held monthly training sessions for CHW’s focusing on topics such as recognising ill health, manage of wounds and basic first aid. To ensure CHW’s were able to become active in their communities, they were also provided with basic first aid and wound management kits. After years of having to walk up to 30 km to reach their nearest health facility, patients who developed ill health had a local point of contact to discuss and even receive basic treatment for their ill health. CHW’s are motivated to improve the health of their communities and have requested further training.

On Call Africa has used the experience of working closely with Community Health Workers to develop a more comprehensive CHW training program, offering training to 18 individuals over a 24-month period. Training will include theory sessions, practical on the job experience and work-based assessments. Launching in 2015, On Call Africa hopes that this program can be replicated in other areas to ensure that rural areas in Zambia have continuous, high quality health care, as close to the family as possible.

CHW, Conista, translating for Dr. Carloine
CHW, Conista, translating for Dr. Carloine
 
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