Wildlife & Flooding Rains: Challenges of Riding to Health Centers

James Mwanza, author of this post, is Stanford’s longest serving Data Collection Officer. He provides another perspective to the challenges of working in and traveling to rural health centers. To learn more about Stanford’s groundbreaking research in Zambia, visit our website.

I am based in Livingstone district, the town well-known tourism due to the Victoria Falls, one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

A new river cuts a road in Kazungula. J. Mwanza.

I also cover Kazungula District, the second largest town in the Southern province of Zambia. Every month, I travel approximately 1,300 kilometers to access my health centers to collect data. The distance to the health centers differs from season to season due to meandering road networks. During the rainy season, which is now, most roads are closed due to poor conditions and new ones open up. Six out of 11 of my health centers in Kazungula are not accessible by vehicle due to lack of bridges.

EHT with patients at Nyawa health center. J. Mwanza

Kazungula has experienced rains starting the end of October until the present. The roads and vegetation have already changed. Some roads are impossible to use. I often pass through water to continue the journey to Kauwe, Nyawa, Katapazi, Simango and Mandiya health centers to collect the data. Kauwe is one of the most remote health posts in Kazungula district, 250 km from my base.

During the rainy season I am forced to use the National Park or Game Management Area, meeting elephants and lions. It is interesting to rub shoulders with wildlife. Human animal co-existence is really happening during our research. But I love wildlife and I enjoy riding in dusty roads. Collecting data from the health centers is the key business, no matter how hard it is, data collection is always close to my heart.

Ministry of Health mobile health unit. J. Mwanza

During my most recent multi-day trip to 6 centers,  I had the opportunity to find a Zambian mobile hospital at Nyawa health post 195 kilometers from Livingstone town. The EHT who is the main focus person in the study was busy facilitating the visit of the mobile health trucks. The visit of a mobile hospital is a benefits the community by providing people with chest, eye and ear exams. They also bring medical equipment not otherwise available in rural areas.

Like my colleague Samson who posted earlier, I met my goals of the trip by scanning the HIA1, HIA2 tally sheets including Child Health tally sheets. These forms help Stanford fully understand the activities of EHTs and the impact of Riders for Health’s intervention. I also managed interviewed the EHT Mr. Mukhombwe in-person to learn about his health outreach activities although it was quite difficult since he was busy with the mobile hospital.

Every trip is different from the other and challenges differ. During this trip the journey was much longer than usual – by 150 KM – due to the roads that have been affected by rains, but I managed to collect data from the health centers as planned.

5 Responses to “Wildlife & Flooding Rains: Challenges of Riding to Health Centers”

  1. George Muwowo Says:

    James, you are doing very well through rough road conditions. This particular rainy season is a little bit abnormal, careful when crossing those “rain made streams”, there could be some alligators or crocs. The lion and elephant encounters are scary! Man be careful, don’t push yourself too close to those wild animals. They are dangerous.

  2. Meredith Tuttle Says:

    James is right about the challenges of traveling during the rainy season. On a recent trip to Zambia I found that the sun could be shining one moment and the next moment you could be standing in torrential rain. It could go back and forth like that all day. The riders are tough guys. Stay dry james.

  3. Victor Unigwe Says:

    James its definitely not easy working under such conditions. It can be quite challenging traveling through bad,rain swept roads where you are not sure of the road………one minute sandy,next minute water logged. However, nothing is compared to the satisfaction of getting the data you came for and seeing the impact of the health programs on the life of the people. Kudos James.

  4. Lesley Sept Says:

    I loved your post. I could visualize what your day was like and appreciated the level of dedication/hard work it takes to do your job! Lesley

  5. Joe Says:

    Hi James,

    I work with a small NGO which is expanding into Kazungula next month. Could you email me?
    -Joe

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