OkaZHI: Okanagan-Zambia Health Initiative

The places you go – the people you meet

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Aug 12

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by Bill Nelem
April 2008

By far the three most influential people we’ve met are Dr Stephen

Simukanga, the Vice Chancellor at the University of Zambia, Dr Puma, the Deputy Minister of Health, and Dr Peter Mwaba, the MoH appointed administrator of the University Teaching Hospital. Peter is also charged with development, capacity building and infrastructure support in rural Zambia.

All are personable, accessible and interested in who we are and what we can potentially do in support of Zambian health care.

The UBC Okanagan UNZA Memorandum of Understanding opened doors everywhere. I had to go to the Supreme Court to get more copies of the MoU notarized because they all wanted multiple copies distributed to their various departments.

Even though the MoU was signed at the dinner we held for the occasion, I was summonsed to attend the VC’s office the next day just to ‘chat’.

Holding a map of Canada, the VC asks me to show him the whereabouts of Kelowna. How big is your town? What industries do you have? What is the ‘Okanagan’ add on to UBC?

How do you run two campuses under the one UBC flag?

Then with the MoH hospital administrator and the Deputy Minister of Health:

‘If we bring a doctor/nurse team to work a rotation in a rural regional hospital, can we bring a documentary team to film and record the experience?’

‘No problem – the Minister will issue a Directive.’

‘What about the logistics with respect to transport, supplies, etc, etc.’

‘No problem – the Minister will issue a Directive.’

Other significant contacts include Dean Mulla, Margaret Maimbolwa, the physicians and surgeons we met, the Mongu connections including the Regional Secretary for Western Province, Mr Mandona, the Principal of the nursing school in Mongu, Dr Stewart Reid, the Canadian Internist working at CIDRZ, an Alabama based NGO with a $15 million annual budget.

Emily at Women for Change, the NGO supported by VIDEA and KaZ is an important connection because she is so well connected as to how things work within the rural and urban communities. She’s also a fierce and persuasive local negotiator for almost anything one might need at the grass roots level.

Of course, we always triangulate everything through Professor Chifumbe Chintu, my former medical school classmate! In all matters, it’s always Chifumbe’s call.

I’ll be off to Mongu again soon – Bill.

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