Global Health Travel Blog

UNC Gillings students share their global field experiences around the world.

Category: Taylor

Farewell (for now) Lusaka

Traditional Chitenge Dress I Had Made for a Bridal Shower

It is hard to believe that my time in Lusaka, Zambia is already coming to an end and I have to say, while there are reasons I am excited to return home, I am not too eager to leave the life I have started to create here. The local community in Lusaka is very supportive, inclusive and genuine and is full of interesting professionals which I am glad I had the chance to meet. I am grateful for the opportunity to mingle with people working at some of the leading international development and global health agencies such as the United Nations, the Ministry of Health and the CDC at a weekend braii (what we would call a barbeque or cookout) and to be able to talk to them about their work and experiences living in Zambia and other parts of the world.

While it took some time, I feel like I have adapted to the more laid-back lifestyle in Zambia and have enjoyed that fact that it is less stressful than back home. I can understand why I have met so many people who moved to Lusaka for what was supposed to be a few months or a year and have now been here for multiple years, some over 20. There does not seem to be the same sense of competitiveness and hurry that I often find myself caught up in while living and working back in the States. Now, there have been times I wished for a greater sense of urgency; like when we were without running water for a week because of a broken pipe, or sitting in the dark for four hours a day while the electricity was turned off, or stuck on the side of the road for hours at night because our bus broke down. Back in the States, moments like these would have thrown a wrench into my entire day and launched me into action to try and rectify what are, at the end of the day actually pretty minor, inconveniences. But here I find myself, more often than not, finding humor in these situations, doing what I can to change my routine but otherwise, accepting these are things I have no control over. I believe I am leaving Lusaka more relaxed with greater patience and a stronger ability to accept the things I cannot control.

Victoria Falls

At work, I feel that I have learned so much about the healthcare system in Zambia and am better able to understand problems the local healthcare system faces. I am leaving with many things to think about in terms of my potential role in developing solutions to strengthening local healthcare systems in low-and-middle-income countries (LMIC). My work in Zambia had me at the University Teaching Hospital almost every day and while most of my time was in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) or the research office, I also spent time in the delivery ward (witnessing my first birth!) and the Kangaroo Mother Care unit. I had the opportunity to speak to many professionals who have been a part of the healthcare system for years. I have spent most of my time here collecting and analyzing data related to neonatal health outcomes in order to quantify the cost of care for preterm births. I was keenly interested to learn how the hospital collects and analyzes data in order to report statistics, primarily on patient outcomes, to the local government and Ministry of Health. This was a great opportunity to see the challenges faced in collecting quality data on health outcomes and how this data is used (or not used) to drive decision making.

Overall, my time in Zambia has been wonderful and I feel that I have grown both personally and professionally. I have learned to be more flexible and adaptable and how to overcome obstacles that came up during our research, critically thinking about how to course-correct and move forward. I also feel I have greater appreciation of the importance of understanding the local context when working in different communities. I gained the most insight when I took the time to observe and listen to others, and put my initial assumptions and opinions aside.

Sunset Over Zambezi River

It seems almost surreal that my time here is almost up and soon I will be back in class at UNC but I am sure that I will return to Zambia again.

– Taylor  

Life in Lusaka

I arrived in Lusaka, Zambia about three weeks ago, after a grueling 26 hours of travel, and jumped right into my internship with the UNC Improving Pregnancy with Progesterone (IPOP) Study. I spent my first week in the UNC Global Projects office familiarizing myself with the study and the issue of preterm birth in Zambia and getting settled into my new accommodation and neighborhood. I am now working mostly in the University Teaching Hospital (UTH) to finish collecting and cleaning the data that will be used to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of using progesterone during pregnancy as a way to prevent preterm birth among high-risk women.

UTH

It took me about a week to feel confident navigating the halls of UTH in Lusaka. A large hospital that also receives many transfer patients from other clinics, especially in the maternity ward where I am working. I recovered from my first day where I found myself locked in a bathroom for overthirty minutes before the door had to be broken in.This brought alot of laughter to the crowd of staff and patients that had gathered around the door to see if I would get outand is now one of my top embarrassing moments.Most of my time is spent in the NICU right now, observing preterm babies and recording allthe actions themedical staffperformto care for the infants,and the length of time spenton the care. There is a long list of activities we are following, including performing physical exams and setting up IVs to resuscitating babies and delivering oxygen. There are anumber of preterm babies in Zambia that never leave the hospital, these days are by far the most difficult.

The infants are regularly moved around and are difficult to keep track of and doctors and nurses are constantly in motion asI trail them with my notebook and timer. They work quickly and efficiently,movingvery much in sync. I am usually in awe with how effortlessly they move around each other, and me, in the often-crowded rooms. All of the staff are incredibly nice and accommodating andnever forget to start each day by saying “good morning” to everyoneandtheyare always willing to answer my many questions about the activities they are performing.It has been a great opportunity to not only learn more about the issue of preterm birth in Zambia but also about the local healthcare system more broadly.

Chaminuka National Park wildlife.

Outside of work there is plenty to do in Lusaka and around Zambia; so much that it would be impossible to see everything in the short ten weeks I am here. The winter weather here is very ideal and is a welcomed break from the North Carolina summer heat. Multiple national parks and animal nurseries are home to much of Zambia’s diverse wildlife, which the country is making a great effort to preserve. These are great day trips from Lusaka. I will soon be traveling to Livingston for a weekend to see Victoria Falls, one of the natural wonders of the world and a sight I hear is nothing short of amazing. In Lusaka, there are many restaurants and cafes serving food from all over the world. Local cuisine is heavily centered around nshima, a pounded white maize which is scooped up and rolled into a ball with your hands and eaten with different meats, beans and vegetables.

I have learned so much in the few short weeks I have been in Lusaka. Everyone has been incredibly welcoming and have quickly made me feel at home. I look forward to continuing to learn and collaborate throughout my internship and to see what life in Lusaka has in store for the next couple of months.

Chaminuka National Park.

-Taylor