Hi Cynthia. Can you tell us about your role at Neri Clinics?
I am a registered nurse, currently completing my degree at the University of Zambia. I work in the clinic managing many of the daily activities and helping the staff, among many other duties.
What are some of the challenges you are dealing with at the clinic currently?
Although continuous sensitization is done, our community is not always aware of the risks of the covid-19 pandemic, as sometimes patients come without masks, and it feels unkind not to treat a very sick person for that reason. We have also observed that patients exchange masks which are making covid-19 cases double or triple.
The country is facing a crisis in essential drugs as the disease burden is getting higher by the day, so even after you send patients to test for covid-19 elsewhere, they come back to Neri to collect the prescribed medication, and they would still join the queue risking infecting those that do not know that they may be infected. We also need to educate some of the women who come with innocent children without masks because they want to escort their friends who have come for family planning.
Having recently recovered from Covid-19 yourself, what advice would you give to those attending the clinic or to the people in your community? Also, having had the virus how has that affected your perception of the pandemic?
My advice to people is that covid-19 is real and if we become careless this disease will claim many more lives than we are already seeing. People in our local communities are not really adhering to the guidelines. Sadly, we have lost so many close relations to this disease. We pray for them and for our country.
Zambia is experiencing a very difficult time with high rates of infection. Are there vaccinations available or is it very difficult to obtain vaccines?
Vaccinations are very much available and are free for everyone to access but the biggest problem is that there is a lot of information going around on social media both good and bad, so people are turning away from getting vaccinated. The first dose vaccine numbers were so low, we are still waiting to see how the second dose numbers turn out.
What are your hopes or thoughts for what we can do at Neri Clinics for the community during and after the pandemic?
I would say as a country, it’s been a real blow to us because schools have been affected. It would be great if primary and secondary schools had access to better education and resources. We need to decrease the number of kids on the street to reduce school dropouts. I also think that if we could get more people working, there would be less theft. For me personally, it has been very hard for me to access online classes because the network is poor. I need to find a spot away from my house – more than 1km away, so it means if I have a class at night. I cannot attend the lecture.
I would also like to see people being educated more about how quickly Covid-19 spreads because although bars are closed, people still drink in hideouts, they invite each other to their backyard and have mini gatherings. In the market places people don’t put on masks, and many people still attend funerals regardless. We hope and pray for better days ahead.
Thank you for updating us, Cynthia. We hope indeed that the situation
will improve for the people of Zambia. Thank you for the valuable work you are doing at Neri Clinics.
Interview by Justine McGrath and Dr. Ronan Flood.