As Christmas approaches our team of volunteer doctors are returning from Mapatizya where they’ve been running the last clinics for this year alongside the volunteer Community Health Workers. During 2017 a total of 21 volunteer medics have travelled to Zambia to provide healthcare for villages where there is no doctor. On behalf of the communities we wish to thank them for their commitment and for making a huge difference.
The 2017-2021 Zambian National Strategic Health Plan includes clear plans and goals for improving health infrastructure. Nevertheless Zambia still has a 51% shortfall in the required numbers of doctors. So we’re delighted that 17 doctors have already confirmed that they will be travelling to join the team during 2018.
Messages about Malaria
Community Health Workers and Doctors have been out in the villages around Simango Rural Health Centre helping young people learn about malaria. One of the simple but important messages is that sleeping under a mosquito nets significantly reduces risk. And we’re pleased to report that most of the participants are going to change their behaviour, and sleep under those nets. During October we were able to reach 1218 young people with these important messages about malaria.
During September our volunteer team have been continuing the monthly mobile clinics in the villages. They continue to work in close partnership with staff from the rural health centres and the Community Health Workers who provide such a vital presence within the communities. Peter, one of the CHWs wrote this month to remind us of the difference our supporters have made by enabling his training:
Equipping Community Health Workers
One of the ways we are helping increase access to healthcare is by making sure the CHWs have got the equipment they need to do their vital work. Thanks to the Allan and Nesta Ferguson Foundation we’ve been able to provide the healthcare volunteers with back packs filled with simple equipment like thermometers and stopwatches. And to enable them to travel further to reach more patients they are being provided with ‘Buffalo Bicycles’ – robust and easily maintained bikes designed for rough rural terrain.
Back in the UK lots of amazing supporters have been helping to raise vital funds to enable our work to happen. Thanks to Kirktilloch and District Soroptomists for their fundraising over the last few months, motivated by their joint President Liz Spence, who was able to visit the work in Zambia earlier in the year. Thanks to the organisers of the Harelaw Farm Dinner Dance held at the end of May when 140 people had a great time raising money. Thanks to Common Grounds Community Cafe who nominated On Call Africa as one of their chosen charities this month. Thanks to Cranleigh School for their end of term collection. And finally, thanks to the 20 runners who were sponsored to run 10km in Zambia, Scotland and England on 18th June.
BMA Support for On Call Africa
We’re delighted to report that two groups within the BMA are supporting On Call Africa. The BMA Charitable Purposes Subcommittee have awarded a grant to enable us to continue to raise awareness of HIV (both within in our health education programme and through our on-going testing of HIV status). Meanwhile the BMA Information Fund has just dispatched a large supply of medical reference books which are being sent to Livingstone for use by CHWs and our clinic teams.
Global Health Partnership
This month On Call Africa is contributing to NHS Education Scotland’s 7th National Scottish Medical Education Conference which is taking place on the 4 – 5 May 2017. We’ve contributed to a joint poster Global citizens, global partnerships: NHS Scotland and Zambia: A win-win for all.
Treating, Training, Teaching
Our team aims to bring all three aspects of our work to the villages. This month our 3-pronged strategy is sharply in focus. Clinics have been busy. Meanwhile our health education programme has been considering the importance of hand-washing. And at the end of the month Community Health Workers gathered in Livingstone for a residential training week led by our volunteer doctors.
Gifts in Kind
Our work is facilitated by volunteers and by generous gifts of funds from individuals, grant-making bodies and other healthcare organisations. Earlier this month Australian group The Birthing Kit Foundation once again sent across simple packs which increase the sterility of birthing environments. We are pleased to share these with staff from the Rural Health Centres, where women are encouraged to attend.
Water, Water Everywhere
Our team of volunteer doctors are settled into the routine of clinics, though the rains have continued to present challenges. Sadly some of the village crops have suffered and the farmers are hoping that their crops will recover.
Despite the rains most clinics have gone ahead over the past couple of weeks and we’re pleased that several hundred young people have already participated in this month’s health education classes in the villages.
Over the coming months they’ll be learning about alcohol awareness, washing hands and hygiene, clean water and worms, emergency first aid, and how to guard against dehydration.
Treating, Training, Teaching
As the new year begins our plans for 2017 are being put into practice. A new team of volunteer doctors have arrived in Zambia and are busy treating patients in the villages. The challenges of accessing remote villages during the rainy season remains, but we are getting to most of the villages which are expecting us.
The Community Health Workers are also in action helping people within their villages – particularly important when villages are cut off by rising river levels. Meanwhile we’re looking forward to further discussions with the District Health Offices about the best locations from where we can recruit potential new community health volunteers to join our next year long training course.
As we enter 2017 we’ve also reviewed our health education plans and will be delivering key messages across all the villages where we work over the coming twelve months.
Its going to be a busy year, but with your support we’re confident that we will continue the journey towards improved access to healthcare.
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 three people who have worked alongside our teams over the past year months.
Jennifer Chispandue, a nurse based at Simango Rural Health Centre, 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 is Dr Ambrose Moonga., the Director of Zimba District Health Office. He agreed with Jennifer, 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 emphasised 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.
Dr Catriona Parker, an On Call Africa volunteer 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 Jennifer: “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.”
Dr Moonga 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.
Increasing Access to Healthcare
During November our teams have been busy enabling our three approaches to improve access to healthcare.
- Treating patients at our mobile clinics
- Training Community Health Workers
- Teaching village communities
At the start of the month we said goodbye to a team of doctors who’ve been working in Zambia since August, and welcomed a new team who will work with us until the end of the year. Their generosity of time and expertise is essential in enabling communities in the villages to access better healthcare.
Spreading the Message
Our team in Zambia have been busy conducting health education in the villages. Newly assessed Community Health Workers have been taking a lead in these sessions as part of our aim to build sustainable health outcomes. As part of these sessions we’ve been looking at dental hygiene and passing on toothbrushes and toothpaste so the children can put into practice what they’ve been learning.
Meanwhile, back in the UK, representatives from On Call Africa, including Dr Gavin McColl, participated in an event at the Zambian High Commission in London. A conference with the Zambia UK Health Workforce Alliance helped us build some new relationships and share the message about the instrumental role of Community Health Workers in identifying early signs of serious illness.
Successful CHW Assessment Week
A busy month with extra doctors arriving in Livingstone to help with Community Health Worker assessment week. Following several weeks of residential training over the last year, alongside mentoring and support in their villages, we are pleased to report some very positive results.
We’re immensely proud of these dedicated and hardworking volunteers who have worked so hard to gain the necessary knowledge and skills to enable them to work effectively in their villages. The journey doesn’t stop here, as both On Call Africa and the Rural Health Centres will be working to support and resource them in their work and offer continued training.
New Clinic Team Arrives
This month we welcomed a fabulous new team of doctors who will be running clinics and training over the coming months. Our work is only possibly because of the willingness of committed people who want to help improve access to healthcare in isolated communities. If you know of doctors who may be interested we are currently looking for more volunteers to begin in August 2017.
Following June’s residential training the Community Health Workers have returned again to Livingstone for their fifth residential week since last summer. They took time to reflect on the values they should bring to their work within their communities.
Whilst in Zambia to lead the training, Dr Gavin McColl, one of our founding trustees, visited members of Livingstone Rotary who have been loyal supporters of On Call Africa’s work over the last few years.
Training for the future
Our Community Health Worker training programme has seen another residential training week in Livingstone over the first week of June. This group of local volunteers from nine villages are approaching the end of their year-long training. They’ve been gaining knowledge and skills to help them provide advice and care for their local communities. They’ve benefitted from the insights and experienced of our team of medical professionals who have been leading the training and ensuring that these volunteers are progressing in their clinical skills.
Volunteering, Volunteering, Volunteering
This month we were delighted that Dr Gavin McColl, one of our founding trustees and a medical graduate from the University of Manchester, received a Volunteers Award from Manchester University. He was recognised as one of their Alumni Volunteers of the Year, and was awarded the second place prize.
Meanwhile in Livingstone we’ve said farewell to our outgoing team of doctors: thanks to Drs Neil, Dave, Chloe and Maya for their amazing dedicated work in the village clinics since the start of the year. We’ve been pleased to welcome new volunteers – Megan has arrived to take on coordination of our work and a new team of doctors has been providing continued service to the nine village communities where we work
We’re also pleased to report that that Indigo Volunteers are helping us promote volunteering opportunities in Zambia. We have had lots of interest from prospective volunteers and we have secured teams through to early summer 2017, although we would welcome another volunteer for November and December 2016.
Supporters Making a Difference
On Call Africa’s work is enabled by people from across Scotland and beyond. During the coming year we’ll need to spend almost £10,000 on vital medicines for use in our clinics as well as buying resources to enable us to train local community health workers. So we are very grateful to all those who are able to donate towards out work. We are pleased that financial support during 2016 has already been offered by a Glasgow-based company, two grant-making trusts and the Scottish Government International Development Team. Fundraising is being planned by three supporters taking part in the Cardiff Gung-Ho Event, Douglas Park Golf Club’s Pro Am event will help us buy medicines, and a central Glasgow bank has offered to provide volunteers for fundraising.
If you are able to help fundraise do get in touch or donate via our Donate page on this site.
Volunteers for 2016
Our clinics and training rely on the work of our team of volunteer doctors. So we’re pleased to report that 14 doctors have stepped forward to work in the villages across 2016. There’s a couple of places available towards the end of November and December, and then we’re aiming to build the team for 2017. Huge thanks and respect to all these dedicated medical professionals.
Golf Event Announced
We’re delighted that Douglas Park Golf Club will be running their 20116 Pro Am Tournament to benefit On Call Africa. The event, being held on 18th August at the beautiful course in Bearsden near Glasgow, is being sponsored by DM Hall Chartered Surveyors.
Annual Review Published
Our Annual Review 2015 is now available.
- over 20,000 hours of volunteer time
- nearly 7,000 patient diagnoses
- Rotary Clubs donate ambulance
- Prime Minister speaks about On Call Africa
Looking Back & Looking Forward
During 2015 our doctors diagnosed and treated nearly 7,000 patient conditions. Over 250 patients were found to have pneumonia and a further 1168 had other respiratory complaints including asthma. Over 2,000 children aged 5 and under were diagnosed. Nearly 500 had diarrhoea, over 700 had respiratory complaints, with 143 diagnosed with pneumonia. Other children were brought to clinics with a range of conditions ranging from easily remedied problems to more serious illnesses.
During 2016 we’re planning to treat even more patients and we’re aiming to enhance our support for village-based community health workers. We’re also going to continue our health education programme in schools and with families.
New Year, More Clinics
We’ve been running clinics in the villages around Simango this week. It’s been very busy with lots of patients needing to see the doctors, so we’re glad there’ll be a couple more volunteers joining us later in the month.
News from the Villages
Schools in the villages are now on holiday until January, so our team has run the last of our health education classes for the year. Clinics are continuing into the third week of December, and our doctors have been working incredibly hard, consulting with as many patients as possible. Meanwhile we’re sending updates and photos to our supporters via social media with 12 Christmas Messages at www.facebook.com/OnCallAfrica
Trustees Receive Award from Prime Minister
The UK Prime Minister has presented a Points of Light Award to On Call Africa’s Trustees. In a speech this week at 10 Downing Street David Cameron commended the work of OCA’s trustees:
“With On Call Africa they are helping people in some of the most rural areas of Zambia to access vital health care and in some cases saving lives. By inspiring and training local people as well as their UK supporters they are enabling the people of Zambia to make a difference in their own communities. I am delighted to recognise their service as we mark St Andrew’s Day.”
Please click here for Stories from 2015