Sister Teresa is a medical assistant with two years of training, working at Nzama Health Centre. There, she sees up to 50 patients each day.
The idea of becoming a healthcare worker arose from her own experiences. “When young, I was treated in hospital, and I thought ‘This is what I want to do’. It feels so good to help diagnose a condition and to treat a person so they become well. Sometimes they come back and thank me for healing them. It is not only down to me, but it makes me feel so good to see them well again.”
Women face many challenges to access the help they need, particularly when giving birth. The clinic’s maternity ward is too small for the numbers who need its services. “Sometimes our women have to deliver on the floor, and we don’t have space to keep them separate on the ward. This means newborn babies are mixing with people with infectious conditions, which is very problematic.”
Many of the women who attend the clinic travel far. “Sometimes they come by motorbike, other times they walk three or four hours. But we have no laboratory, and this is a challenge. Without lab tests, it can be difficult to diagnose correctly, so often we have to estimate. We also have to refer people for minor things that we could manage here if we had a lab.”
"It feels so good to help diagnose a condition and to treat a person so they become well."
- Sister Teresa -
High levels of poverty mean most people depend on their garden farms, and some share space with or sleep alongside their animals. “I see many cases of scabies and impetigo, a bacterial infection,” says Sister Teresa. “These spread very easily because lots of people live together in close quarters. If one child gets an infection, the whole family will contract it.”
Shortage of medicines is among the centre’s biggest challenges. Speaking in November, Sister Teresa told us: “We are a small clinic without many funds, and we have not been able to purchase more medicines since February. We are out of stock of so many medicines, especially for skin conditions, so we depend on donations. Last month, we received a shipment of donated medicines from IHP and we were so happy when it arrived.” She adds: “Sometimes donated medicines are the only ones we have.
Some of the most commonly used medicines include fusidic acid cream to treat skin conditions, prednisolone to treat patients with asthma and allergies, antibiotics to treat different types of infections, amoxicillin syrup to treat children, and doxycycline to treat pneumonia, sexually transmitted infections and cholera. Sister Teresa adds: “The multivitamins are needed, too, because we have many cases of people with nutritional deficiencies as they have so little food to eat. Ibuprofen is a very good product for pain relief because patients only need to take one tablet at a time and it is easy to swallow.”