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On Call Africa: a COVID-19 micro-grant project story

On Call Africa helping the Zambian health authorities respond at community level

On Call Africa (OCA) is a charity which aims to improve access to healthcare in rural Zambia, focussing on remote areas where rural communities have to travel long distances to access medical care. Through its office in Zambia and with the support of four staff and medical volunteers from the UK, OCA works to strengthen local health systems and contribute to sustainable change. Co-ordinating closely with the Zambian Ministry of Health, OCA works closely with Rural Health Centres to deliver mobile clinics and health data analysis to identify and track needs.  OCA also supports and trains community health workers, including through community engagement and health education.

The coronavirus pandemic has meant big changes for OCA.  Mobile clinics and most international travel have been cancelled to avoid spreading the virus and OCA have been focussing on supporting the Zambian health authorities’ response. As well as assisting analysis and communications, they have shared vehicles and medicines, and have been fundraising for frontline health worker PPE. OCA have also helped the Ministry of Health to develop national guidelines for community health workers.

Victor distributing posters on Covid-19 prevention in Nakitindi near Livingstone, May 2020. Photo credit: Amie Fletcher

The Corra micro-grant supported work led by OCA’s Zambia Project Manager, Victor Malambo. Victor co-ordinated efforts to deliver public health information on coronavirus, working alongside district health office staff and volunteers from other Zambian NGOs who had worked with OCA in the past. The joint team alerted people at markets and other community hubs using a PA system, sharing information in a safe way and distributing health messages and posters. During May and June 2020, this awareness raising reached over 3,000 people who will have passed on important information about risks and prevention to many more in their families and communities.

Describing the public health activities supported by the Corra micro-grant, Victor said,
“It was really important work, because at the time we started this, coronavirus was just coming to Zambia and people didn’t know what to do. I think it really helped people to understand social distancing, hand washing and masking up, and how this could help them to stay safe while doing their daily tasks.  We have not seen many cases around Livingstone, and I am sure this helped.”

Ben Margetts, OCA’s Director commented that,
“The unrestricted nature of the grant meant that we were able to keep staff on at a time when we were facing uncertainty around some of our funding streams. It also meant that we were able to be responsive to the needs of the district health office and move quickly to support the biggest priority at that time.”

OCA is continuing to provide support to the Zambian Ministry of Health for their coronavirus response, helping to develop guidelines, co-ordinate among partners and contribute to wider planning, while also raising funds for required items.  Looking forward to January 2021 when OCA’s volunteer doctors will return, the team are planning to double their reach to 18 communities in Zambia’s Southern Province.

Corra Foundation is working in partnership with the Scottish Government to administer and manage a number of the Scottish Government’s development assistance programmes to work with communities overseas. In response to the coronavirus pandemic, Corra has also made a number of micro grants to organisations already known to Corra to support their partnership work overseas.

These stories were originally shared on the Corra Foundation’s website

Cover image credit: Volunteers and OCA staff co-ordinating their community awareness health information work on arrival at Nakitindi near Livingstone, June 2020. Photo credit: Amie Fletcher

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