Whether we’re talking about metal trading or the MMTA’s medical charity, Friends of Mufulira, perseverance can make all the difference.
In the case of Friends of Mufulira (FOM), we have been twinning for over ten years, and some our team’s involvement goes back even further. In the case of our trustee, Dr Robin Gleek, he took his own elective in Mufulira in 1977. In those days he was serving at the same hospital (at that time white-dominated) with which we are now paired. This is the Ronald Ross General Hospital (RRGH), so named after the Nobel prize winning clinician who first described the life cycle of the mosquito, identifying the malaria parasite in the mosquito’s stomach. At time of writing, 120 years since his award, the world is on the threshold of obtaining UN approval of two vaccines which may one day eradicate the disease.
Those of us who have travelled to Mufulira have known friends who regularly succumb and survive malaria, and yet also observed the charts which depict the massive rise in malaria deaths every rainy season from October to March when standing water increases malaria breeding. There is hope in this story, of which perhaps in some way FOM will be a part.
Since our charity was founded, the support of members of the MMTA has been steadfast and amazing. But when Covid interrupted our activities, the original purpose of the organization (which was to fund young UK doctors on their overseas elective) could have been terminal. Instead, we turned our efforts to the supply of critical pieces of medical equipment – oxygen concentrators, a new anaesthetic machine, and a ventilator (amongst other items). The critical factor in our decisions about equipment was its suitability for sub-Saharan Africa. Both the ventilator and anaesthetic machine had inbuilt oxygen concentrators; so obviating dependence on external supply of oxygen cylinders.
But as important as supplying equipment can be, it seems to us supporting training is of equal importance. This comes in two ways, with FOM funding specific local training but also paying for training on all equipment sent. This uplift also continues in a mutual way when our electives travel and interact with their Zambian colleagues, exchanging information and expertise.
Treating malaria is not something you will experience with any frequency in the NHS, so our electives gain knowledge of this disease and other common ailments in Mufulira – notably TB and pneumoconiosis, while the local clinicians are brought knowledge of modern ways of treating heart disease and stroke. We know that after returning to UK our electives remain in contact with their Zambian counterparts, enabling cross-continental sharing of knowledge and treatment advice.
And so now, for the first time since 2019, we look forward to a resumption of the elective programme in 2023. With funds in hand of about £16,000, we hope to fund a total of four electives selected from Liverpool and Edinburgh universities at a cost of £1000 each. Back in Mufulira, the new superintendent of the hospital, Dr Chazya Sikambale, was installed and is looking forward to the resumption too, while Dr Tshula Tumba, who skilfully shepherded all previous electives, remains in position.
So, as mentioned with regard to training, we are presently processing a request from Ronald Ross to send two clinicians to a bigger hospital to be trained on intubation – in other words to use the ventilator for assisted breathing and conduit for drugs when lungs are unable to work for themselves. This would maximise the use of the equipment FOM provided.
Of course, there are many requirements that a small charity such as FOM is unable to tackle. On balance we feel that the linking of UK clinicians with their Zambian counterparts remains the best use of FOMs funds. As ever the path trodden to Zambia by our UK electives is made easier by the existing infrastructure of friendships and uninterrupted UK/Mufulira relations which benefit all. When the electives return, sometime in the middle of next year, they will be required to write reports, and we in our turn will share some of the highlights of these with MMTA members.
Once again everyone at FOM sends our heartfelt thanks to those who have supported, and continue to support, this venture. If any members visiting Zambia for other purposes wish to visit RRGH or see Mufulira for themselves, they should not hesitate to contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or Freya Kerwin at email@example.com
Trustee, Friends of Mufulira
To follow FOM ‘s progress, please visit:
Registered charity number: 1176062
Donate to Friends of Mufulira with every Amazon shop with smile.amazon.co.uk