Final Visit to Zambia – Week 1

It’s been five years since our involvement in Zambia ceased. It ended formally at the Last Learning & Steering Group Meeting on 6-Sep-2018 and we’ve not been back since. Reportedly, things have been carrying on without us. Now we are here we can see for ourselves. The reason for the trip is to tie up a few loose ends and we thought we try and give Kit Yamoyo, and the GRZ ORS/Zinc Co-pack, a bit of a boost while we were here.

Tuesday 13-Jun-23

We arrived on Tuesday (13-Jun-2023) on two back-to-back 6-hours flights from Gatwick via Dubai so we weren’t up to much when we landed but did manage to visit the local Shoprite store to get a few provisions. Would they have Kit Yamoyo in stock? Yes they did! Somewhat obscured by the K7.99 price tag for Panado, but there all the same.

Kit Yamoyo in East Park (West) Shoprite - 13-Jun-2023

The price was K19.99 which feels like a lot to us but is around USD 1.06. When Kit Yamoyo first went on sale in Shoprite in 2016 it cost K8.19 which, at the time, was about USD 0.70.

Anyway, it made us very happy to see it there. Then we went to the till and I decided to play the mystery shopper. “Do you know what this is?” I asked the cashier as she scanned the kit. “Yes” she replied in a positive tone. I followed up with “Is it any good?”. “Oh yes. It’s for when you’re dehydrated. It’s very easy to use..”. And she was off, running her finger over the instructions giving us chapter and verse on Kit Yamoyo. It was amazing. The only thing I could mark her down on was that she didn’t mention Zinc but, in my mind, I put this down to the fact that a queue was building! But seriously, we were delighted. A fact captured in the following audio recording.

Listen of SoundCloud

Now, I don’t want to give a false impression here, so I need to report that the next day when I did the same the cashier didn’t know what the product was and the second Shoprite store I went to didn’t have stock. So things aren’t perfect but, I think I’m right in saying that Zambia is the only place in the World where you can get co-packaged ORS and Zinc in a supermarket.

Wednesday 14-Jun-23

On Wednesday morning we drove to the Kit Yamoyo manufacturer Pharmanova and despite the fact we got lost and were very late, received a very warm welcome. A few weeks back Pharmanova decided to run a Kit Yamoyo celebration event while we were here. This will be aimed at cementing the already strong relationship with the Ministry of Health and raising the profile of Kit Yamoyo generally. This is turning out to be quite an occasion with Prof Roma Chilengi, the Health Advisor to the President, confirmed as guest of honour. The event will run on the morning of 6-Jul-2023 and include lunch. It will feature a panel session populated with some the key players in the Kit Yamoyo Story and will explore what they feel are the success factors that have created the Kit Yamoyo legacy. The panel will be chaired by Dr Bonface Fundafunda who was the first person we met from the Ministry of Health during our first visit in October 2010 and he went on to manage the government’s medicines distributor (Medical Sores Limited, now called the Zambia Medicines and Medical Supplies Agency – ZAMMSA). The current director of ZAMMSA will also attend as will the General Manager of Shoprite, our friend Charles Bota. This is shaping up to be quite an event that should get significant press interest.

In the afternoon we met the Deputy High Commissioner, Sam Waldock who was clearly run off his feet but had managed to fit us in before travelling outside the country. We gave him and his colleague, Leah Gaffney, a briefingĀ  of our work which they seemed to find helpful. Leah invited us to present at the Nutrition Cooperating Partners (= donors) meeting on 22-Jun-2023 on the theme of the Kit Yamoyo legacy – this is a fantastic opportunity.

Thursday 15-Jun-23

Meeting with Albert Saka - 15-Jun-23On Thursday we met up with three old colleagues and friends one after the other. First we met Albert Saka for lunch. Albert worked for the frontline NGO partner, Keepers Zambia Foundation (KZF) and was involved in our work right from the beginning. He was the KZF Project Manager for the trial. He then managed one of the scale-up projects – KYTS-ACE (remote rural districts). Albert came to the UK for the premiere of the ColaLife Documentary and his wife and one of his children were the stars of the video describing the scale-up version of Kit Yamoyo and how to use it.

Meeting with Stephen TemboNext up was Stephen Tembo. Stephen owns and runs RuralNet Associates the surveying company that won the contract to undertake all of the household surveys we have done over the years. We’ve been trying to chase down a confusion we have had over ethical clearance for the KYTS-ACE project by email and this has proved impossible. But face-to-face and with time I think we’ve come up with a way forward which we hope will enable us to submit our paper on the impact of co-packaged ORS and Zinc on dispensing behaviour. This paper was written in 2017 and presented to the Ministry of Health and was one of the bits of evidence that led to the government adopting the co-pack. We would now like to give it a wider audience by publishing in a peer-reviewed journal.

Meeting with Charlotte MwanzaAnd finally, in the early evening we met up with Charlotte Mwanza. Charlotte managed the trial in Kalomo (south of Lusaka) where she still lives. She, and the network of Community Health Workers and retailers her team had trained, were left high and dry when we were unable to get nationwide scale-up funding. Despite this, she remains an ambassador for Kit Yamoyo and told us that the product was available in the Choppies supermarket in Kalomo. We believe that Pharmanova are thinking of developing a network of “Kit Yamoyo” ambassadors. If they do, Charlotte would be a prime candidate.

Friday 16-Jun-23

On Friday our first meeting was with Ezra Banda, Executive Director of Keepers Zambia Foundation. We discussed current KZF projects and the upcoming event on 6-July-2023. At lunchtime we met with Chibale Phiri. Chibale was the very effective project manager of the scale-up project in Lusaka (KYTS-LUSAKA). Like Charlotte she remains a keen advocate for Kit Yamoyo. As an ambassador she said would be willing to give monthly presentations at her local health clinic.

Saturday 17-Jun-23

On Saturday we both tested positive for COVID! We think we either caught it here immediately on arrival, or on the plane. So we have decided to lay low during the coming week as all the appointments we have, bar one, are movable. The one that isn’t movable is the presentation to Cooperating Partners and we will seek to do this via Zoom. We really don’t want to miss that opportunity.

Onwards and upwards.