by Eric Liswaniso, Programs Manager, Malaria Partners Zambia
Declared a district in 2017 by then President Edgar Lungu, Kanchibiya is a rural district in Zambia’s Muchinga Province. Hemmed in on its northern border by one of Zambia’s biggest rivers, the Chambeshi river, Kanchibiya is known for its fishing. Fishing is such a great part of life here.
In fact, my team and I had hoped to partake of the famed Chambeshi Tiger fish that we’re told can weigh in excess of 4Kgs, but we were out of luck this time. So we went on about our business of monitoring the work of the neighborhood health committees whose training and orientation we supported last year. Still you could not resist the wonderful view of the mighty river and the beautiful plains around it that seem to go on forever.
Yet, it is not the scenery that fascinated us the most. No. It was the culture of these wonderful people. Kanchibiyans as I will call them for the purpose of this article are very hardworking people. Having very little economic activity as a new town, people here survive on fishing, farming and harvesting of caterpillars, locally known as vinkubala. The latter is so famed an activity that people travel here from all over the country during caterpillar season to harvest the famous vinkubala from here.
In fact, the typical life of a Kanchibiyan is characterized by seasonal migration to fishing camps and vinkubala fields. Entire families migrate to the river banks during fishing season and again to the plains for to harvest caterpillars (vinkubala) during the early stages of the rain season. They will later shift to their fields for farming again. Their school going children often also have to camp near their schools between Monday and Friday due to the long distances between schools and villages.
The problem comes when health workers have to provide preventive care like spraying households against mosquitoes, distributing mosquito nets, or during door to door vaccination campaigns like the recent one against polio.
There’s no one at home!
This has partly contributed to the relatively higher malaria incidence rate in Kanchibiya. Of course some of the numbers are attributable to local immigration during vinkubala season, when so many people travel here from elsewhere, which coincides with the peak period for malaria around November to December. Times like this, the work of our trained community health workers in mobilizing and sensitizing their neighbors for these important campaigns really becomes helpful.
We learnt, sadly, that the district has started regressing on the progress it had made in reducing maternal deaths due to the fact that pregnant mothers often do not report their pregnancy early to their facility as they’d often be at the fishing or vinkubala camps. By the time they are due to deliver, if it is a risky pregnancy, it often too late to facilitate a safe referral to the bigger hospital 80 Kms away at Chalabesa. That hospital too only received a doctor 3 months ago who is now servicing the entire district – but that is a story for another day.
In the meantime, we are the privileged guests of the newly built state of the art mini-hospital here that we hope once opened to the public will be sufficiently staffed with qualified doctors and nurses so that referral services are brought closer to the wonderful people of Kanchibiya.
Since there are no lodges or motels in Kanchibiya yet, a night in the male and isolation wards here will suffice for my team and our young lady Rotaractor Thandi, who is volunteering with us.
Yours in Rotary Service.
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