KAPALA CHISUNKA, Lusaka
MIRIAM Mutale is eight months pregnant. At 20, she is a wife and mother of three children aged seven, five, and three. She lives in Luka Mubanga village in Ngulula ward, Chief Chitimukuluâ€™s area, Mungwi district.
Two of her older children were delivered at home with the help of traditional birth attendants because of the long distance to the nearest health facility.
The nearest health facility from her village is about 10 to 15 kilometres. To access health facilities, Miriam, like many other villagers, covers the 10 to 15km stretch on foot to Mungwi town. Sometimes she gets on a bicycle at a fee. Bicycles are another major form of transport in the area.
â€œWe do not have health posts in the area. To get to the nearest health facility, we have to travel long distances to Mungwi town or the Baptist health centre and none of the two facilities are near. It is really hard, especially for pregnant women like myself. Thatâ€™s how I ended up having my two older children at home,â€ she said.
She said to use bicycles to transport them from one point to another requires money; money which she said is difficult to come by, and if they do get the money, it is almost always directed to other demanding issues at home.
When in dire need for medical attention and there is no money to hire a bicycle to transport her to Mungwi or the Baptist Church-run health post, Miriam visits herbalists who are readily found in the community.
Her story is no different from Brenda Kapambweâ€™s of the same village. Brenda, 24, is six months pregnant. She is married and a mother of two children.
â€œOne of the major problems we are facing in this area is lack of health facilities. We constantly have to travel long distances to access the nearest health care services and facilities. And if you donâ€™t have money to get on a bicycle, then the only option is going to herbalists; a situation I am never comfortable with because of the uncertainty in the dose,â€ she said.
She complained that it is because of such problems that many pregnant mothers decide to deliver at home even though they know that is not the best option in an event that complications arise during delivery.
â€œI want the baby I am expecting to be born in a hospital this time around,â€ she said excitedly.
Brenda has a reason to smile because her community now has a health facility. World Vision Zambia, with financial assistance from their Taiwanese funders have constructed Ngulula rural health post, two double ventilated pit latrines, a borehole and installed a solar system and incinerator stands at a total of K290,000.
The project to embark on the construction of a health facility was arrived at after World Vision Bwacha and Twikatane programmes in April 2013 kick-started activity implementation with a household baseline survey.
Assessment findings on health indicators from the survey revealed that inadequate health facilities in Mungwi district are one of the major challenges being encountered.
World Vision Zambia associate director Rose Zambezi said World Vision is aware that access to quality health services remains a challenge that needs to be addressed by all well-meaning organisations.
â€œIt is hoped that once Ngulula rural health post is fully functional, distance covered to the nearest health facility by our people in this ward will be significantly reduced. We also plant to construct another health in Katilungu area by the end of September this year,â€ Mrs Zambezi said.
Mrs Zambezi recognised the good relationship that exists between World Vision and Government which results in the success of their projects.
â€œAs World Vision, we will continue to work with Government and other stakeholders in Mungwi district in order to bring meaning and sustainable development,â€ she said.
Northern Province permanent secretary Hlobota Nkunika said Government recognises efforts and commitment that World Vision Zambia has continued to render in ensuring that access to essential health services is improved especially in rural areas.
Speaking when he officiated at the handover ceremony of the health post in Mungwi district recently, Mr Nkunika said Government delights in working with Non-Governmental Organisations such as World Vision in improving the health status of Zambians.
â€œSignificant contributions such as this health facility will go a long way in achieving the Millennium Development Goal number five which seeks to improve maternal health. Government will continue to provide a favourable environment to operate in for all well-meaning organisations not only in Mungwi but the rest of the country,â€ he said.
According to the 2010 Central Statistics Census report, Mungwi district population was at 151,058. Mr Nkunika said this has resulted in high demand for quality health services in the district.
He said Government cannot manage to meet all the health needs of Zambians without concerted efforts from all stakeholders.
However, Mr Nkunika said currently Government is constructing 69 health posts in Northern Province; 30 of which will be in Mungwi district. He said 24 sites for the construction of health posts in Mungwi have since been given to contractors.
And Paramount chief Chitimukulu commended World Vision for constructing a health post in Mungwi district. He said for a long time people in Mungwi had had a challenge which includes travelling long distances to access quality health care services.
In a speech read for him by his council representative Davis Chansa, the traditional leader urged the community to guard the facility jealously.
â€œThis chiefdom is very big but we are happy that Government together with World Vision decided to consider constructing a health facility here to reduce on distance people travel to access health services. We need more of such amenities here,â€ he said.
KAPALA CHISUNKA, Lusaka