Samson Muchumba is a Stanford data collection officer based in Choma District. He interviews 23 Envionmental Health Technologists (EHTs) every week at urban and rural health centers, asking them about their health outreach work and access to transport. Every month, he visits each health center in-person to collect data critical to the evaluation. To learn more about Stanford’s health supply chains evaluation in Zambia, visit our website.
In Choma District where I work, there are four routes to reach the remote rural health centres. These routes are; Mapanza, Pemba, Sikalongo and Masuku.
It was 6 am when I peeped outside; it was cloudy and appeared as if it was going to rain. I became reluctant to wake up to prepare for the trip along Masuku route. When I was still debating within myself whether to go or not, my phone rang. It was one of the Environmental Health Technologists (EHTs) I was supposed to visit that day. He was trying to find out if I was still going to visit the health centre. I told him the visit remained as scheduled. I got out of bed and started my routine preparations.
Along Masuku route there is Simakutu, Simukanka, Masuku mission and Masuku terminal health centres, the furthest being Masuku terminal which is 82 km from the District Health Office.
Before starting off I did the routine motorcycle check up, i.e. I checked if there was enough fuel, the engine well lubricated, the lights and brakes were operating well, if tyres were well inflated, and nuts and bolts were tight enough.
I started off from my home around 7 am so that I could reach the first health centre at 8 am. It was too early for me to eat my breakfast, so I carried packed snacks for breakfast and some also for lunch.
Just a few kilometers from town, the road became sandy for some kilometres. I had tough time riding the motorcycle along this road, for the wheels were sinking. And at some places, the road became rough with pot-holes and ridges. The speed was literally reduced and I kept swerving to avoid pot-holes and ridges.
The first stop was at Simakutu health centre which is 35 km from the District Health Office, and it took almost an hour to reach there due to the bad nature of the road.
I was met by the EHT, Mr. Cliff Chiluka and I found him facilitating a meeting for the community health workers. It was an emergent meeting. He explained to the meeting attendants so that he could attend to me. So the meeting had to be temporarily suspended.
I interviewed the EHT, thereafter, he got the folder where he keeps the official tally forms, which contain monthly health records for the health center. I scanned these for the month of September 2012 and the motorcycle log book sheets. I also took a photo of the motorcycle odometer.
I sat somewhere to have my breakfast which I carried along with so that I could have energy to ride on. I still had a rough road ahead.
I bade farewell and started off to the next health centre which is Masuku mission, another 30km from Simakutu. The road from here had ridges and stones in most places. The stretch from Masuku mission to Masuku terminal is the worst part of the road with ridges, rocks and is sloppy.
It took the whole trip from town to Masuku terminal (82km) about four hours. It’s a nightmare to ride along this Masuku road. The road network is the biggest challenge as far as in-person visits for data collection is concerned. However, the reception in the health centres is always positive and I was able to collect the important health data necessary for our evaluation.
- Samson Muchumba, Stanford Data Collection Officer, Choma District