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We are often asked what is it really like in the rural communities where our Spreading Health nurses are working. The following is an analysis of 10 are female and 7 male, average age was 24.5 and 3 are married:
The average distance to the nearest hospital was 12.1km (range 1km to 38km) and the time taken to travel to that hospital varied enormously from 20 minutes for 12km on a tarmac road (only one community had a tarmac road!) to 1hour for 15km on country tracks using a motorbike (cost 3,000 CAF).
If on foot from a community in the hills with no cars and rarely a motorbike, then 5 hours for 10km.
All journey times are doubled in the rainy season, except for tarmac roads.
Village houses in all these communities are built of sun-baked mud brick with corrugated metal roofs except in one community where some houses still had thatched roofs.
Cooking takes place within the main (often the only) room. In many rural village houses this is also the room the family sleeps in.
We see chronic bronchitis, not from cigarette smoking (few can afford that) but from the cooking fires!
There was no electricity in 73% of communities. Electricity reaches a few houses in 20% of communities and one community had 40% of houses connected. Occasionally, in some communities, wealthier individuals piggybacked electricity from a nearby town with a supply, by looping cables through the forest themselves. Only 1 of the 17 nurses had TV/radio in their (parents') home, the same who had concrete floors. None of the 17 had a fridge.
Water ran to village standpipes in 50% of communities, while the other 50% relied on water from springs, rivers or wells. None had it piped into houses. In one village in the dry season when water is scarce, some is brought from a distance on motorbikes and sold at high rates to those who cannot collect it themselves. In two villages where there had been good water standpipes, they were left with few because the system could not be properly maintained.
Toilets were pit latrines in 'compounds' (i.e: 1 per extended family) in all communities. House floors were uniformly of beaten earth in 50% of communities.
While 1 nurse came from a community with virtually 100% concrete floors, the remainder came from communities with some of each and one had a mix including some wooden floors. None of the nurses had their own transport, not even a bicycle! Only one had a father with a vehicle. Most came from communities with a few motorbikes but usually no cars.
Clinics served communities which ranged in size from 700 to 17,000 persons Some communities had built themselves a health centre but (they) struggled with its upkeep and it had no electricity or water. In all but one community most villagers owned their own land where they carried out subsistence farming. In the other one many people just rented the land.
“...patients who are very sick use motorbike 'taxis ' to get to hospital, if available. People may die when it takes a long time to find one.” -Donald
“I always loved working with people, solving health problems. When I qualified as nurse some people came down to the health centre and said ' a small doctor has come, we must consult her!'.” -Havillah
“The population are very poor, they can' t pay to get there (hospital) so they die at home. The sisters keep pigs to help cover the costs of treatment at our health centre.” -Sr Delphine
“...sometimes the equipment at the nearest hospital (5km) is not working so they have to travel further by motorbike.” -Ethel
“We have no money to buy drugs because of the money owed by poor people. When they are sick we treat them anyway and keep their health books until they do pay.” -Havillah
“...we need (a) good laboratory to give the diagnosis and help us to use the correct drugs.” -Omer
“...the water was piped but (the) pipe broke (and no-one could repair it) so now people collect from natural sources, mainly streams, some dirty & some are clean.“ -Rebecca
“...everyone in the village greets you and looks at you differently from other people, with respect.” -Omer
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UK Registered Charity No: 1131624