What, you may ask, drives us at the MMTAs Charity, Friends of Mufulira, to plug away to support the community in Mufulira, Zambia?
Perhaps anyone attending the MMTAs anniversary dinner in October 2023 will have the answer when they listened to the testimony of Drs Rhyanna Morris and Josh Hulman recalling their time in Mufulira. Both were alumni of the MMTAs medical elective bursary.
It was not possible not to be moved by Rhyanna’s first-hand account of unnecessary child deaths caused by poor training and the lack of the most basic medicines.
It was just one example of what motivates us as Trustees, and affects our MMTA donors who continue to support us. And what a wonderful collaboration it is – from the input of Freya Kerwin and Polina Sparks at the MMTA, who give of their time for free, through to the extraordinary support of people such as Dr Laura Tilling MBE and Steve Curtis, who pioneered UK-Mufulira relationships in the 1990s through twinned schools. Their wisdom and knowledge on the ground has anchored us, while Dr Robin Gleek’s knowledge has made our medical contributions more intelligent and realistic than they might otherwise be. On the Zambian side, the building expertise of Ebrony Peteli and medical knowledge of Dr Charles Chiponda have matched anything our side has been able to give. Finally, the support of successive Chairmen, and presently Stephen Hall, has been incalculable. Once again, it should be emphasised, your charity has no costs other than those of its audit.
So, what is on the cards for 2024?
- The 2 x 10,000 litre replacement water tanks for Kamuchanga District Hospital on the outskirts of Mufulira are now sunk into the ground supported on concrete and walled in to prevent pressure from earth movement.
Because they are below ground only minimum water pressure is required to fill them and from this reservoir water is pumped to a 5,000 litre tank which then feeds the hospital via gravity as needed. This hospital on the outskirts of Mufulira serves an entire community.
- This year we have already held our first meeting with the next group of medical students destined for their placement at Ronald Ross General Hospital in Mufulira this year.
Chloe Wightman from Edinburgh University flies at the end of April, and Joe Barley, Sian Parry and Eleanor Joyce from Liverpool go at the end of June. As ever, we gain as a charity from the up-to-date intelligence they provide, and the local community is uplifted by their presence, assistance, and exchange of medical practice.
- In other news, the Ultrasound machine delivered a few years ago from UK by Steve Curtis and for which FOM funded training to maximise its use, broke down due to over-use. A new Curved Array Probe was required at cost of £3000 max. FOM agreed to fund its replacement and provide more training. The Ultrasound is used for diagnosis around the clock and is the only one in the region.
As this request came into us, Dr Gleek, was approached by a company of water engineers from Cheshire doing work inthe Copperbelt who were interested in what we are doing and offered £3000. We have accepted this donation hope the relationship will develop in an orderly manner.
On a perhaps less enthusiastic note, MMTA members may have noticed that at the recent COP28 meeting in Dubai
a deal was sealed by President Hichilema of Zambia to sell the former Glencore-owned Mopani mine and smelter in Mufulira to a UAE entity called IHC. The runner up to acquire the asset from the government owned entity presently managing the complex (ZCCM-IH) had been Sibanye Stillwater with proven experience in the mining sector.
We cannot see evidence of any such experience by the UAE entity, and so we must wait and see whether the stated aim to increase copper output from the present 74,000 tpy to 200,000 by 2030 is realistic. As a group involved with the Mufulira community, it is too early for us to see at this stage whether the new owner will be beneficial to the community. This will no doubt become clearer as the months progress, and I will report back on this.
By Anthony Lipmann
Friends of Mufulira