Nabwalya Area Needs Urgent Facelift

“STRICTLY 4times4 vehicles,” is a visible inscription on a sign post showing the location of this area situated 260 kilomteres from Mpika-Serenje road turn-off down into the Muchinga Valley.

The turn-off is 80 kilometres from Mpika Boma on Serenje road.

This area is situated lower in the Muchinga Escarpment, meaning getting there, one needs to meander down through the more than 100 metre mountain crossing more than 52 streams before reaching the final destination.

Despite the tedious and back-breaking drive of not less than five hours, accessing the area is dangerous, especially at night because the road passes between a game management area and Mfuwe National Park which has a variety of wild animals.

What has remained are shells of the cars because owners have failed to retrieve them and they have eventually been caught up in the bush fires.

A recent trip found unsecured brand new Toyota Noah clinging to the cliff and it is feared that it would soon be gutted because this season is prone to bush fires in the countryside.

Chief Nabwalya’s area of the Bisa people of Mpika District in Muchinga Province is the place, with a population of 13, 000, who are annually cut off from the rest of the country every rainy season because of the poor terrain.

Accessing this area is a nightmare because of the rough terrain which becomes impassable during the rainy season as the 52 streams get flooded moreover there are no bridges or culverts.

Animal-human conflict cases are order of the day where wild animals attack and kill people.

Serving life is almost impossible due to inadequate health facilities or rescue operations.

There are no social amenities or any form recreation apart from hunting, if not poaching.

Chief Nabwalya’s area is infested with tsetse flies because of the geographical location.

The nearest school to the area is located 30 kilometres from the area thus difficult for many children to go to school.

No child attempts to go to school during rainy season because of the vulnerable situation.

The area seems far from civilisation as evidenced by the manner in which some children scampered to safety in fear when Health Deputy Minister Chitalu Chilufya and Mfuwe Member of Parliament Mwimba Malama’s motorcade arrived to hand over one of the ambulances the Government has bought for health institutions in the country.

Without demeaning humanity, the children are believed not to have seen cars going by the behaviour even after the convoy was parked.

The Zambia Flying Doctor Services (ZFDS) is said to access the area as and when the climatic condition is conducive for landing because of the geographical location.

According to Chief Nabwalya, it takes time for the ZFDS to respond to an emergency because of geographical conditions and the lack of network for communicating on time.

“Last month, man was wounded by a lion and it was difficult for the flying doctors to arrive on time because of the same factors. Somebody had to walk kilometres to find the network and communicate, by the time the plane arrived, the man had died,” Chief Nabwalya said.

This was one of the many incidents where life had been lost as a result of animal-human conflict and the lack of adequate health care services as well as non-existence of a referral system.

The poor road network infrastructure is another major setback to development in the area as no any other vehicle apart from raised four by fours like Land Cruiser or Land Rover.

Expectant mothers with complications have allegedly died on the way to Mpika District Hospital to seek treatment, while others get attacked and killed as they have to walk through the game park.

Chief Nabwalya said it was sad that 50 years after independence, the area was still poor as it was in the colonial era.

Asked why the people could not be relocated to a more habitable area, Chief Nabwalya said it was impossible because that meant abandoning their traditional heritage.

“We cannot move, this is where our ancestral spirits are. There was an attempt to relocate us during the First Republic but people said no, what is needed is to develop the area like others, this is our heritage” Chief Nabwalya said.

Currently, there is a single small operating health centre manned by one qualified Zambia Enrolled birth attendant Anthony Mwandu.

Other 42 health posts have been closed due to lack of man power

However, things have started slowly changing because Government feels the area is an integral part of the country and development has since started rolling to Chief Nabwalya’s area.

As a short term measure to reduce on response time, Government has given the area an ambulance in a quest to strengthen the patient referral system.

But in the long term, the process of expanding Nabwalya Health Centre to provide quality health care services closer to the people as enshrined in the Patriotic Front Manifesto has started.

Dr Chilufya, when he handed over an ambulance to the health centre a fortnight ago, said the expansion of the health facility is aimed at bringing quality health care close to the people.

“We want to turn this health centre into a zonal health facility which will have a surgery, a maternity annex and theater,” Dr Chilufya said.

The procurement process has started while construction is expected to commerce before the end of this year.

One medical licentiate would soon be sent to attend to various operations as the Ministry of Health continues to build sufficient capacity at the health centre, which was in line with the PF Manifesto and subsequently reduce the disease burden.

The Government wants to reduce deaths resulting from preventable diseases such as maternal and reproductive health.

Chief Nabwalya said the Government’s passion to develop the health sector in the area was testimony that the State has respect for humanity.

He, however, called o the Government to open the 42 health posts that were not operational, as doing so would decongest the only operating health centre.

Chief Nabwalya said there was need to connect Nabwalya Health Centre to a proper solar power system or the national grid so that the health facility could serve the public better.

He urged the Government to deploy Police officers to the area as there were none, despite the community having built a Police post.

The traditional expressed concern about the cultivation marijuana and called the Drug Enforcement Commission to comb the area.

On the improvement of the road network, Mr Malama, who is Transports, Communication, Works and Supply Deputy Minister, said Government had awarded contracts China Henan and Raubex Contractors to construct Mambwe-Chief Nabwalya and Mpika-Chief Nabwalya road at the cost of K1billion.

Mr Malama said the contractors have since moved on site and are in the process of setting up camps.

“The construction of the road would connect Northern, Muchinga and Eastern provinces, and ease movement of people and goods, especially farm produce,” Mr Malama said

Mr Malama said the Government would also set up network towers by October to improve connectivity.

The residents talked to were happy to receive the ambulance and hear that Government would start soon constructing a road and expanding the health centre.

Adrian Mwale said Government should ensure that the road network construction was completed on time so as to alleviate people’s sufferings.

Once the area is developed to some acceptable standards, Mr Mwale said more health workers and teachers would be attracted to work in the area.

Mr Mwale, however, urged the Government to upgrade the community school so that children get educated and live a better life like their colleagues elsewhere.

Nsofwa Chibwenda, who was uncomfortable with a male midwife at the health centre, was, however, happy that the health facility would be expanded and expected more female midwives to be deployed to the area.

Ms Chibwenda said the Government should constantly send drugs to the health centre to save people against dying from preventable diseases.

After that back-breaking and tedious trip to Chief Nabwalya’s area, calls from various sections of society aocating increased Constituency Development Fund allocation should be taken seriously because a trip to that area is not something one would want to experience again, but what about the people living there?

Source : The Times of Zambia

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