Once upon a saga - Zambia, day two

Published: 17 June 2016 7:24 CET

Torbjørn C. Pedersen, a goodwill ambassador with the Danish Red Cross, is currently travelling the world, aiming to visit all 190 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Travelling on a budget of just $20 USD per day, Tor is undertaking his journey without the convenience of air travel, something no one has ever achieved. Currently in Zambia, in southern Africa, Tor witnesses first hand, the impact the Zambia Red Cross Society is having on reducing maternal and child deaths. To learn more about Tor’s journey, visit: http://www.onceuponasaga.dk/.

We were now ready to head into the field. After a short drive we stop at a local village were we meet the Safe Motherhood Action Group. This a group of about 20 volunteers who help encourage safe births. A well-earned pride shines through their eyes as they report that home deliveries have dropped to zero! No maternal deaths were reported the year after the project started. A grand victory for all.

As per local custom, villagers want to give me a local name as a sign of respect and acceptance. I am named "Lubasi" which means "family man".

We then move away from the shade of the tree and into the nearby church, where the final day of a training is to take place. It is about how to improve knowledge of available income generating activities. It doesn’t take long before we learn that a good sow should have at least 12 to 14 teets, and about which local crops you should feed your pigs 14 to 30 days before sale. Obi, a government man, gives the lecture, and includes the five P's for all of us: Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance. Generally, the entire village could resemble a company working towards a common goal: profit.

We say our goodbyes and return across the sandy roads. The next day we set out to visit Nakalembe Community School where we meet with the Zambia Red Cross Society hygiene club. After some welcoming singing and dancing, a few students demonstrate their knowledge of proper hygiene by showing us drawn sketches ,while explaining about hand washing, safe source drinking water, and the dangers of open defecation. Before we continue, we are all asked to dance inside a circle so that they can have "a picture to remember us by". 

Near the school we observe a borehole, which is now making life easier for villagers at Gonjongo. The borehole supplies them with a safe source of water away from the farm animals. The borehole is 27 metres deep to ensure that there is still access to water in case the water level drops during the drought. The villagers no longer suffer from diarrhoea and the general health across the community has greatly improved. The runoff from the borehole leads water away for two reasons: so that the area around the borehole stays dry and hygienic, and  to ensure nothing goes to waste - at the far end of the runoff, a banana tree enjoys all the water it can take. The villagers are grateful towards the Zambia Red Cross Society and the Netherlands Red Cross for literally changing their lives.

Next stop is the Ikwichi Rural Health Centre. The foundation is nearly completed for the third and final Mother Shelter. In the near future, mothers within their last stage of pregnancy will rest in the shelter prior to giving birth amongst midwifes and health professionals. This is part of a two and a half year resilient babies programme which also includes the Safe Motherhood Action Group. The future does appear positive.

After a short stop at Namitome Basic School to visit another Red Cross hygiene club, we say our farewells and leave the same way we had come. Elephants and zebras appear in Kafue National Park as we lay the sandy Borotse land behind us. It is late before I find myself in bed thinking about what I had learned. One thought that sticks with me is that in Zambia, the Red Cross is always present.

To learn more about Tor’s journey, visit: http://www.onceuponasaga.dk/.