Wednesday, July 29, 2015

E. Coli...not just featured in Food, Inc.

Sometimes you get E. Coli and vomit for a few days. Yikes! Currently on the mend. Here are a few updates from the past few weeks :)

While I'm waiting on a few final pieces from the University of Zambia and the Ministry of Health, I've spent my time doing some preliminary research and working at Chikumbuso. My main research site is Chainama Hills Mental Hospital, the only public institution for the treatment of alcohol abuse in all of Zambia. But as you can imagine from the name, Chainama is also the only center for many other challenges--all forms of mental illness, in fact. In practice, this means that individuals suffering from schizophrenia, psychosis, violent episodes, Alzheimers, acute learning disabilities, and substance abuse all receive treatment in the same place. 

When I walk into work in the morning, I'm usually greeted by individuals singing and pacing (today it was a Taylor Swift rendition), young alcohol abusers sitting quietly in the corner, silent nods from those unable to speak, waves from those in wheelchairs, and lots of handshakes. Far above capacity, a single ward may host nearly double the number of prescribed patients, and simply glancing through the gate you can feel the unease of proximity (both to those with radically different diagnoses from oneself and also simply the physical closeness to other persons in a small space). Healthcare is completely free in discourse in Zambia, yet inadequate government funding often requires patients to pay some amount in practice; this is never enough to sustain the hospital beyond basic functions, and often even these primary needs remain unmet. Leaky pipes leave trails across the floors, many medications simply are not available at the pharmacy, and power flips on and off unpredictably. However, at Chainama I've found staff who are utterly committed to treating every patient as a full human being, and caring for each one even when resources are stretched quite thin.

The correlation of other challenges--medical and otherwise--for those with mental illnesses in Zambia is quite high. Substance abuse often precedes or follows mental challenges, along with poverty. HIV, tuberculosis, and other physical ailments intersect, as well as hopelessness and dejection. The stigma against those with mental illnesses in Zambia pushes these individuals to the margins of society, and opportunities to attend school or work are few and far between. In my time here, I will be working with youth to better understand the medical, social and psychological causes and effects of substance abuse. The Ministry of Health aims to use this as evidence in the policy formation process to structure compatible interventions, and though I know I will leave with lots of information regarding youth substance abuse, I hope that in the process I'll learn a great deal more about the bigger picture of mental illness and service provision in Zambia. I'll keep you updated! 

In our time off, Will and I host dinners, go for jogs, and try to explore around the country. Two weeks ago we took a trip to Livingstone (as pictured below). Many more adventures to come :) Thanks for reading! 
After hiking down to the bottom of the Falls!

Hanging out with Cute at Chikumbuso! If you followed several years ago, you can see how much she's grown in the past three years!

Riding an elephant

Elephants have HUGE tongues!

Peeling sugarcane
Running away from a Zebra who didn't wanna be friends 

Cookin in Lusaka!

Friday, July 17, 2015

And on the third summer, the blog rose again

Hello everyone! 

Well, the blog is back in action. Many of you asked for updates, and though I don't feel blogging is my forte, perhaps this old page may be resurrected for the time being. Here goes!
For those of you who don't know, this is my third summer here in Lusaka, Zambia. In the past few years I spent time training teachers and helping students prepare for government exams at 2 different organizations, Chikumbuso and Mercy Ministries. This time around, I'm working with the Zambian Ministry of Health on a community-based research partnership. For the past six months the Ministry (the equivalent of the Department of Health in the US) and I crafted a research project based on an area of interest to the country--youth alcohol abuse. Zambia claims international renown as one of the highest regions for alcohol abuse, yet qualitative understandings as to reasons for this this prevalence remain unstudied. Right now the Ministry of Health is in the process of generating new policies regarding alcohol, and they hope to utilize this research to inform the policy. Crossing my fingers! 

It's safe to say there were a few bureaucratic delays. As endemic in the US, government operations take quite a bit of time. However, by the end of the first week, we were able to submit the project for ethical review. In my spare time over here, I’m working with Chikumbuso to create a Community Health Workers Training for their community, Ng’ombe, and teaching at Mercy.

I feel unceasingly grateful for the opportunity to return to Zambia and see wonderful friends once again. AAAAND this time I’m not riding solo, my boyfriend Will is also here conducting research with the University of Zambia! Here are a few pictures from the time so far…I’ll try to keep this page updated!

Hanging out with a cheetah! 

Dinner with our good friend Danny in his home in Kalingalinga

Lunar Moonbow over Victoria Falls!

There are power shortages all across Southern Africa because of we eat cookies by flashlight (special thank you to Will's mom Rhonda for the delicious treats!)

So happy and excited to spend time at Mercy and reconnect with all of the kids and teachers!