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.
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.
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.
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.