Analysis: EVANS NGOMA
A LOT has been said about the health sector, especially now with the ravaging cholera epidemic that has demanded a lot of support, financially, materially and emotionally.
A lot has been put into fighting the epidemic, which has been declared a national emergency, and the unity of purpose exhibited by all and sundry has demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt that, against all odds, we can, we must rise to the challenges.
I should hasten to point out that we need to thank President Edgar Lungu and his government for ably leading and showing direction on how, as a country, we can put efforts together.
The armed forces were called in to help. Looking at how the city looks now, these are but signs of positive developments.
The private sector and non-governmental organisations chipped in, and what seemingly looked like a big catastrophe was contained. However, we are very sad about the lives that were lost.
We hope that from the harsh realities we found ourselves in, we can only look at long-term solutions and do all we can as a people and country to contain such disasters.
I had a chat with a colleague who had come from Chipata to visit his grandmother, who has not been well for a while.
I could see how drained he was emotionally, as a result of the daily visits to the hospital, and at some point, he had lost hope as there was need for a major operation to be carried out. His question was, can this be done locally?
Not knowing how best to guide and advise him, the least that I could do was to give hope and encourage him to keep praying.
We looked for quotations in the region but the fees were just too high for us to afford. The only option available was to do it locally.
Pondering on possible outcomes having heard about various experiences from others at the hospital, hope was fading but what I have learnt to appreciate is that the almighty God always has a way.
After one visitation, as we drove home, the story about the operation of the Siamese twins became the topic for discussion.
What we read and heard on the news was that the operation was to be done locally by Zambian doctors. A lot of speculative questions and answers were thrown around. Can we manage to have such an operation?
Do we have facilities, skills, experience and let alone guts, for that matter, among our health professionals?
Few days later, a story that touched every Zambian and international community was to be unfolded. Yes, the twins were separated in Zambia by locals using local infrastructure. What a great milestone that shall forever be part of our medical history and must be told to our grandchildren.
I called my colleague and stressed the point that, the operation being done locally, it means we have the capacity to deal with complicated operations.
As days went by, during one of our meetings at the office I was touched when a colleague asked a question: how can we as BuyZed help to better our health institutions and also that most operations can be done locally by our very own?
We will not be sincere to say we do have solutions ourselves as it takes a lot, chief among them retention of a skilled educated, knowledgeable and passionate workforce, upgrading available equipment and facilities, availability of medical consumables and, more importantly, affordability.
These were and are tough points to deal with as they are complex and involve factors to make sure that the puzzle is worked out.
The health sector is mostly funded by Government, supported by donors and humanitarian organisations.
What has been evident is that support has never been enough given the growth in terms of population and ultimately the strain on available infrastructure that at the time of construction was meant to cater for a small number of patients.
We are happy that in Lusaka we now have Levy Mwanawasa Hospital that is playing a significant role in helping the public to have access to better health care.
As BuyZed, in a small way, we believe and have been advocating establishment of community trusts based on our available natural resources.
Our value as a country lies in what we own and in this case minerals are ours and have a value that, if we manage them well, they should go towards uplifting the socio-economic and living standards of people and access to good health care.
It is possible to achieve this if we focus on it and see to it that we get value from our mineral resources and give them back to communities, who are in a way owners and they should be the beneficiaries. This is possible.
President Michael Sata once spoke about how our mineral resources should work for and benefit locals.
It is our hope as BuyZed that as a country we will start directly benefiting from our natural resources not only through statutory obligations but through ownership and diverting our proceeds to areas of need, important among them being healthcare.
Remember it takes you and me to make our country great. Let’s work towards benefiting from our natural resources.
They are ours and we cannot afford to mere spectators but ought to be players and real beneficiaries
The author is the founder of the BuyZed campaign.