In rural areas of Zimbabwe, health programs fail for the most mundane of reasons: a road is washed away, drug deliveries fail, the resources are not available to train nurses, clinics have no electricity or water, there is nowhere for expectant mothers to stay and the list goes on. Akin to the links of a chain, one or two broken pieces can cause the whole system to fail. Long distances between where people live and the scarce health resources further compound the problem. As a result, rural communities in these areas are severely impacted by epidemics like HIV and TB and everyday diseases, such as malaria and pneumonia, spread unchecked while known and effective treatments exist elsewhere.
Over the past six years, Wild4life has developed a model for a working rural health system that has produced dramatic results in terms of health outcomes. Focused on building the basic infrastructure, both physical and human, necessary to deliver quality, effective care, Wild4life is successfully working alongside the Ministry of Health to bring health services to people's doorstep across Zimbabwe.
The Songwa Clinic opened in September 2013 at the request of the local community, who previously had to travel up to 20 miles, without transportation, to find even rudimentary care. Baby Viiv, pictured here with her parents, was the first baby to be delivered at the Songwa Clinic in September of 2013.
Wild4life trains frontline health workers, both primary health nurses and village health workers, to deliver basic health services. Dominic Mpala, one of the head nurses of the newly opened Simangani Clinic, helps lead the training and mentoring support programs at all the rural clinics in the Hwange District, keeping nurses and health workers up-to-date on their skills.
Community education events, led by the head clinic nurses, build demand for primary health services and increase health-seeking behavior.
After the pilot program rolled out in the Hwange District 6 years ago, nearly one in two adults, 43%, tested positive for HIV. Today, this rate had dropped to 6%. There has also been a 475% increase in the number of children tested and treated for HIV, and the percentage of in-clinic births has risen from 55% to 89%.
Wild4life has shown that these kind of changes in health outcomes are possible in rural areas with very modest investments in infrastructure, training, and support systems and can develop a new standard of care on a national level.