Saturday, April 9, 2016

Ituku Village Outreach

Our last week in Zambia was certainly a highlight for the 3 of us. With a fantastic team of people: Dr. Nilene, and our translators, Banks and Gift, we set out with a jam-packed truck off into the unknown.  We drove 2 hours out of Mongu, down a sand road, through 6 foot tall grass to rural Ituku village. Our camp for the week was a collection of tents underneath a tree near the chief's home. 

This particular village had no established clinic, so we set up some handmade reed mats underneath a large, shady mango tree. We didn't even have tables or chairs.  Our "pharmacy" was a group boxes on a blanket, and our "exam room" was a camping stretcher behind a reed mat screen for privacy. At any given time, one of us was screening patients for their names and ages, two of us, with the help of our translators, assessed, diagnosed and prescribed medications to our patients as Dr. Nilene oversaw the whole thing and stepped in to help as needed.  By the end of the 3 days of clinic, we had seen 483 patients. 

Given our lack of physical clinic building we had a constant audience of villagers, patients waiting to be seen and local children, who got great entertainment out of saying "encha" to the makuwas over and over again. 

It was a challenging and eye-opening experience to realize that all of these people have very little access to health care.  Many of them have chronic health issues like extremely high blood pressure that could be very well managed with diet education and medication. Some individuals had even had strokes from their high blood pressure and still it wasn't treated.  However, treatment is difficult with the closest clinic located about 10 kilometres away (a 4 hour walk one way, in the sand!). It simply isn't practical for them to walk all that way on a monthly basis to receive the care that they need.  

Even in the short time we were there we saw the fruits of labour. The very first morning we arrived we saw a little girl whose eye was clearly infected. We prescribed her eye drops and by the time we left, her eye looked significantly less swollen and red.  

It was remarkable to realize the impact that a simple 3-day clinic can have, but it is also frustrating to realize that they only receive care like this once or twice a year.  Each night, we held campfires for the villagers and we hope that it was not only a fun evening activity, but a reminder to them that there are people out there who really value them and see their health as a priority.

We were so grateful to be so well supported by Nilene, Gift, and Banks, and will never forget this memorable week.  

Remember, Toho Mutokoko, 

Laura, Sydney, and Montana

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