Rotary Sends Supplies to Zambian Health Centre

Zambia delivery June2019

For the last few years, Cranleigh Rotarian James Phiri has been working on a number of projects to assist people in Africa. Most recently, a container filled with medical equipment and supplies was delivered to Zambia on 12 June 2019. 

The story began in late 2017, when Cranleigh Rotary began investigating how they could assist a remote medical centre in Zambia. 

James Phiri visited the Santa Maria Centre in February 2018 and then began the task of identifying needs and partners with whom the club could successfully deliver medical equipment and other supplies to the island.
In the end, a team of like-minded people came together, including Lyn and Iain Calendar and the team at Operation Sunshine, Mike and John and the team at AMAP, Betty Chilufya at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading and Janet Lister at Rushmoor Rotary. This team assembled enough equipment to fill a 40 ft container that was successfully transported to Samfya. The container was dispatched from Folkestone in March and arrived in Samfya on 12 June. The items were then offloaded and transported 68 km, using several boat trips to the centre on Chilubi Island. 
Santa Maria Mission Zonal referral health centre on Chilubi Island is in one of the 9 most remote districts of Northern Province in Zambia. Chilubi Island is located on Lake Bangweulu, about 278 km from Kasama, the Provincial capital. The District itself is divided into the island, the swamps and the mainland. The extensive waters of Bangweulu cover a triangular area of 9,800 square km at peak season.
The Santa Maria centre is located on the island, 17 km east of the District Medical Office. The nearest Referral Hospitals are Lubwe Mission Hospital in Samfya District on the mainland, 68 km away andaccessible only by water, and Luwingu District Hospital, 145 km away and accessible by water first then by road. Santa Maria’s remote location on Chilubi Island makes delivery of health services a very big challenge because accessing medical and non-medical supplies, and even getting human help, is difficult. People on the island are mostly fishermen and grow cassava as their staple food.
Santa Maria Mission Health Centre was founded by the Missionaries of Africa in 1903. It started as a dispensary which was later raised to the level of a Rural Health Centre and to a first referral zonal health centre. Its bed capacity used to be 75, but this was reduced to 56. The actual admissions are more than 70 patients per month.
Santa Maria serves the eight health centres and three health posts run by the District medical office. Its catchment population is 6,528 by Central Statistics Office (CSO), but Santa Maria serves the entire population of 95,358.
From 1995, when the White Sisters left the island, untrained staff ran the centre until August 2013, when the Sisters of the Child Jesus were tasked to run Santa Maria by the Archbishop of Kasama. From inception the facility had never undergone any facelift and so the institution was on the verge of collapse. 
There was no running water, no sewerage system and no drainage system. The infrastructure at the institution needed a complete overhaul. Fortunately, the island does have skilled local brick layers and plumbers who have been doing a great job of renovating parts of the centre as money becomes available for additional work.
The health facility has a functional operating theatre, although the only licensed medical practitioner is responsible for surgery, screening, prescribing and administration. The centre has challenges with equipment, medication and consumables. For example, they have a chemistry analyser, but at times cannot run certain tests like ALT and AST, urea and electrolytes, due to lack of reagents.
It is hoped that the new consignment of supplies and equipment will help the centre with some much needed supplies. The huge variety of items included furniture, clothes, bedding, walking frames and crutches, as well as medical dressings. 
"It won’t be enough, but it is a contribution that can hopefully make a significant difference," says James.