I have just returned from a short trip to Zambia after setting up a malaria prevention programme in Moomba Chiefdom. The area is located on the North-Western Side of Kazungula District, almost 300 km from Livingstone and 230 km from Kazungula border town. The landscape is undulating sand dunes with numerous lagoons, pans and seasonal swamps in hollows between the dunes. Dry grassland plains, teak forests and miombo woodlands cover the land. This type of landscape promotes stagnation of water perfect for mosquito breeding. The Chiefdom has a high prevalence of malaria. The number of cases in the last three years are: 2014 1,755: 2015 2,000; 2016 1,655. This year 2,017 cases were recorded between January and the end of May.
Accompanied by Mupotola, Presley and Sibeso and setting off at 06.00 I drove for seven hours until we reached Moomba Village. We were met by dubious stares from the adults and apprehensive faces from the children until the nurse introduced us and told that people that we had come to help with their malaria problem. We donated much-needed medical supplies, jerseys for the baby clinic, which was taking place and blankets were given out to the most vulnerable children.
This Chiefdom has never been visited by any other charity or NGO. The Zambian government requested our support to help tackle the malaria problem. We donated 130 mosquito nets with a further 130 to be distributed next week. To provide maximum protection we will apply the safe insecticide coating inside each dwelling and larvicide granules, starting with villages with the highest prevalence of malaria.
There are thirteen villages dependent on this medical centre, which has only one nurse and an Environmental Officer. The nearest hospitals for serious malaria cases are Sichili Mission Hospital, which is 70km, and Livingstone General Hospital 290km. All referred patients must find their own way to these facilities.
The village has a school with 380 pupils up to grade 7. The closest school for the pupils to continue their education is at Molabezi, some 23 km from the village centre. It was a joy meeting these shy children. Once they got used to us they posed for photographs, bursting into fits of giggles when they saw their images on a digital camera. The time went too quickly and after only a short stay in Moomba we had to head back in order to reach the main road before dark. A 590km round trip, 7 hours each way. 200km normal roads driving, 140km on roads with deep potholes and 250km off road, mostly on sandy tracks. We arrived back in Livingstone at 22.00.
Unfortunately, on the journey back from Zambia I appear to have contracted a viral infection and realise more than ever just how lucky we are to have such good medical care at hand. A call to the paramedics resulted in them arriving at my home within ten minutes. Two subsequent visits to my doctor and numerous blood tests, taken over the next of seven days, was reassuring. A far cry from the facilities on offer in Zambia. It takes four hours to walk to the railway line when someone needs to get to Livingstone. I have nothing but admiration for these gentle, yet resilient people, and more determined than ever to support the fight against malaria.
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