Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Ngabwe Health Center

The village of Ngabwe is on the far side of the croc-infested Kafue River.  The pontoon boat is broken and given the remaining small-dugout wooden canoes for transport, I am secretly relieved that the MOH teams refuses to cross.  I was not particularly interested in being a crocodile’s lunch and the loaded, home-made canoes barely sat an inch above the water.

The Safe Motherhood Action Groups to be trained met us on our side of the river instead….which was no easy feat, as the health center was 17km from the river.  The village and health center were not only very isolated, but also very underserved, with only one community health worker to serve up to 70 (yes, 70) patients a day.  Thus, the work of the SMAGs was especially important.  The group of SMAGs was predominantly men, which I found interesting, but learned there has been a recent push by the MOH for more male involvement.  For all the indolent men I had seen in the past few days, these men were extremely committed to the issues of women and I was honored to work alongside them.

However, the training did not happen as planned because our resupply truck from the district center did not arrive at 11am, as it was supposed to.  Without any form of communication with the district, given our isolated location, we just sat and waited all day long with the disappointed SMAGs who traveled 3 hours to reach the training that wasn’t happening.  Finally at 4:30pm, we gave up waiting and left, planning to drive 7 hours back to the district and hopefully return the next day.  As we packed up the truck and readied to leave, the SMAGs looked so disheartened….not sure whether we would return or what would happen. I felt horrible and held back tears as we drove away. 

About twenty minutes down the dirt road, we saw another Land Cruiser racing towards.  Lo’ and behold – the supplies have arrived.  We turned around and it was all smiles as we unloaded food and training supplies.  I have never seen people so happy – this was even given the fact that they would spend the night on the hard concrete floor, waiting for us to arrive the next day for the training, since it was too late to start. 

We arrived the next day and the training went smoothly, even though 15 bodies were cramped in a small, extremely hot room.  We kept the momentum going, wiping sweat from our foreheads every few minutes, and finished with only one glitch…

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