Basic medicines and supplies needed in rural clinics

Children like baby Potipher are at risk. Help us deliver essential medical items that can save lives.

Story and photos by Collins Kaumba, World Vision Zambia. Edited by Peter Warski, World Vision U.S.
Published July 10, 2011 at 12:00am PDT

At just 19 days old, Potipher is tiny. He was born at home, and his mother, Bwalya, had to deliver her baby without a birth attendant.

She explains that she had been pregnant for seven months when she felt like she had malaria and experienced strange dizziness.

"I was coughing continuously for two days before I went into labor, and gave birth to a very small baby," the young, single mother says. "I didn't know what to do, and if [my] mum and aunt didn't come later on, the baby and I would have died."

'He is suffering...'

If Bwalya's troubles in giving birth weren't bad enough, her newborn son has now fallen ill. She took him to Zambia's Mapoma Rural Health Center, built by World Vision in 2007. Potipher is wrapped in a small, dirty blanket and some clothing that she says was provided by a  stranger.

"I decided to bring him to the clinic because he is not well," she says. "He is suffering from abdominal pains, diarrhea, and coughing a lot. This is the first time I am bringing him to the clinic for medical assistance."

Looking weak and tired, she explains the gravity of the situation. "I am afraid my child may die," she says.

Woefully inadequate supplies

Webster, the health officer on duty at the clinic, examines little Potipher. He knows what's wrong, but doesn't have the supplies he needs to effectively treat this baby boy. Photo: ©2010 Collins Kaumba

Webster, the health officer at the clinic who examines Potipher, knows what must be done. But there's a problem.

"The baby needs urgent attention and medical assistance," he says. "I am supposed to admit the baby here and keep him in an incubator...but we do not have an incubator. Also, there are no antibiotic drugs to treat the coughing."

Webster adds that an alternative would be to refer the child to a hospital some 70 miles away, but the clinic has no ambulance transportation or radio communication.

"This is an emergency case because the baby has been exposed to some infections," says Webster, "and with the condition he is in, he needs close monitoring; otherwise, the child may die."

Potipher, clearly in pain, tries to cry — but it's hard to hear him because his voice is so weak.

An unsustainable situation

Basic medicines and supplies can be all that's required to treat sick children like Potipher. Tragically, such items are often out of reach for clinics in places affected by poverty, like this rural area of Zambia. Photo: ©2010 Collins Kaumba/World VisionWebster can only to prescribe Vitamin A and paracetamol, a painkiller tablet that can only be taken orally — making it difficult to administer to infants.

"We also receive drugs [from the government] in rations," says Webster. "The kit I receive comes after two months, and it is supposed to last for two months. Unfortunately, what I receive finishes within one month."

When that happens, he is forced to find his own money and purchase drugs at the district health offices, where he is given another insufficient supply. To complicate matters, Webster has no place to store the medication he has — and he's the only qualified staff member at his clinic.

"Every month, I attend to over 500 new cases at the health center, and about 400 old cases," he says. "Hence, it is a big challenge for me to work without the necessary facilities like adequate drugs.

"With all these challenges, child mortality rate and the number of mothers dying during delivery has continued to rise because people can't be helped here. They prefer doing everything at home," he laments.

Help now

Tragically, this story reflects a reality for children, parents, and clinical workers across the developing world. Children's lives are threatened because poverty denies them access to basic yet critical medicines and supplies. Please pray for children and families like Bwayla and her son, Potipher, and for health workers like Webster, who can't do their jobs effectively because they lack essential resources.

Make a one-time donation today to help World Vision deliver lifesaving medicines and supplies. Your gift will multiply 11 times in impact to help provide essential items like antibiotics, painkillers, bandages, and other supplies donated by top pharmaceutical companies.

Sponsor a child in Zambia. Your ongoing support for a boy or girl in need will help provide necessities that might otherwise be out of reach, like medical care.