Currently, 1.2 million people in Zambia are living with HIV. For those living in rural areas of the country, improper transportation networks coupled with a lack of resources prevent entire communities from receiving even basic health services and education.
Due to these issues, there are very few hospitals in rural or remote areas of sub-Saharan Africa. Treating and educating those with HIV is especially difficult in these isolated communities. Preventing the spread of the disease is also difficult, as many people are unaware that they have HIV.
Hope for rural Zambia
Makunka Rural Health Centre resides in a remote area of Southern Zambia called Kazungula. The centre provides health and educational services to people who would otherwise go without vital health checkups and treatments.
In the area Makunka serves, the rate of HIV is high and over 1,200 residents are isolated from developed areas making it impossible to obtain medical assistance on their own.
Each month, Makunka’s lab tests 100 to 150 individuals for HIV. One out of every ten is positive.
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Sr. Constancia Nzovwa Lungu, LSSF began her position as Facilitator-In-Charge at Makunka Rural Health Centre in 2010.
In 2012, she studied technology and finance in ASEC's Sisters Leadership Development Initiative (SLDI) program to become more effective in her role as supervisor.
Since then, Sr. Constancia has used her knowledge to better the facility.
She has budgeted the clinic’s finances to plan for the future. She has purchased a generator, a laboratory refrigerator and a vehicle so that employees can make home visits.
These purchases allow Makunka to maintain many responsibilities, such as outreach initiatives and treatments for widespread diseases like HIV/AIDS and Malaria.
The vehicle has proved to be especially helpful in creating more outreach posts for children and making home-based assisted care possible.
“I feel that the services for this facility improved a lot more than they did before [SLDI training]... I am able to do a lot of activities to connect with people in Zambia and other countries and I am able to make an impact on other people’s lives.”
Rural healthcare challenges
The staff at the Makunka clinic serve a significant number of patients in spite of the many obstacles that stand in their way.
The clinic has only 16 staff members and 29 beds, but they have served thousands in the Kazungula district.
On the outside, Makunka’s infrastructure struggles to keep rainwater from seeping in from the ground or falling in from the roof.
Internally, the facility lacks the modern technology to treat more advanced cases of HIV/AIDS or more serious injuries that need complex surgeries.
Makunka’s location also makes it more difficult and hazardous to properly dispose of waste like needles and gauges that can spread further disease.
While the clinic works toward to sustainable development through using solar energy, they struggle because the panel’s often fail to get enough energy to consistently power the patient and laboratory areas.
Despite these hardships, the health clinic has treated thousands and continues to achieve.
Sr. Juliana, ASEC’s Zambia Coordinator, said it best when she described Makunka’s roles in the community.
“The clinic may look small, but what is happening here is quite big.”
Additionally, the centre offers general medical screenings and health education programs to encourage healthy lifestyles and aid in promoting habits that decrease the probability of contracting preventable illnesses and diseases.
Makunka has given residents of rural Zambia a sense of hope, especially when it comes to epidemics like HIV.