We achieved a lot today but before I go into details let me introduce you to Agnes and Bonnie (not their real names).
Agnes approached me while we were waiting to film the arrival of the MSL truck at Choma General Hospital for The Cola Road documentary. She was pretty desperate and spoke good English. Bonnie had just been discharged after a few days in the hospital. He is 18 months old but has never walked. She explained that he had ‘hunger of the body’ which I interpreted as malnutrition.
She wanted money to buy food. I left her and went to the vehicle where my money was. While I was away she explained to Tracy (one of the film crew) that she wasn’t producing enough milk for Bonnie (she was hungry too) and that Bonnie was her third child and only child. The other two had died. I came back and gave her some money and a packet of PedZinc from a Kit Yamoyo. I explained carefully what the Zinc was for and the dosage. I explained the the tablets were to be given wit food and not instead of food. She was embarrassingly grateful for the money but even more grateful for the Zinc. I hope it helps. Immediately, she went across the road and bought Bonnie a ‘frita’. As you can see Bonnie still has an appetite. Poverty is a terrible thing. I hope they both make it.
On to the rest of the day which was spent laying the foundations for the film crew (Tracy and Claire) and Albert (Keepers Zambia Foundation) to spend the weekend ’embedded’ in the village where the ‘trial run’ retailers have their shops – Siachitema. This was something I didn’t think we’d achieve as it required the support of the Ministry of Health from the Provincial Medical Officer downwards and the support of te local Chief – Chief Siachitema – but we decided to give it our best shot.
We’d established last night that the District Medical Officer (DMO) for Kalomo was going to be out in the field most of the day today so we thought we’d try and catch him ‘first thing’. We were at his office at 7:30am and he saw us as soon as he arrived. Mr Ngalande is in fact the Acting DMO and is a delightful man who we’ve met once before and is very supportive. He said that he’d been on a field trip with the District Commissioner (DC) yesterday and the DC was talking enthusiastically about ColaLife. We’d visited the DC a couple of weeks ago . . . it really pays to cover all bases! Although supportive, Mr Ngalande, needed reassurance from the PMO. As it happens, we’d also met with the PMO two weeks ago and, again, he is very supportive so I gave him a call. He then called the DMO to give him the reassurance he needed to call the Siachitema Rural Health Centre (RHC) and told them to expect us. So when we arrived in Siachitema the RHC staff were expecting us and welcomed us warmly and offered a room for Claire and Tracy and a camping spot for Albert for the weekend.
So that was the public sector sorted. Now we needed to consult with the local leadership – the Chief in particular. Now, Chiefs are effectively local royalty and are not necessarily very accesible. Their homes, although modest by western standards, are referred to as ‘palaces’. There are strict protocols when meeting a chief. Everyone has to crouch and clap their hands when greeting the Chief and the women sit on the floor on a mat and the men on a bench. You wait for the Chief to greet you before you greet him and so the list goes on . . .
There is also a problem with women wearing trousers and so we went to Joy’s shop to buy Claire and Tracy chitenges.
Anyway, Chief Siachitema and his wife were very interested in the Kit Yamoyo and he was very supportive of what we are doing and gave the go-ahead for Claire and Tracy’s filming plans. He urged us to work hard to improve the lives of people in hin Chiefdom.
I will be dropping Claire, Tracy and Albert off in Siachitema tomorrow morning to spend the weekend there and I will join them on Monday morning when we will test the final part of the process the purchase of Kit Yamoyos – using vouchers – by mothers and care-givers in a remote rural village in Zambia.
Onwards and upwards.