This is the first of probably a few posts about some of my experiences in and reflections on Zambia and related topics. As a disclaimer, these are all my personal opinions and impressions and there’s no way I’m in possession of all the facts. That said, I can only say what I see.
Perhaps the first warning of how this would go down was when the doctor asked if I had a pen.
I leaned forward, trying to haul myself out of the capacious, collapsed armchair, reached into my bag and fished out a cheap piece of bright orange plastic. He accepted it wordlessly and began to jot notes into my medical record. Occasionally, he would glance up over the rims of his glasses and peer at my swollen, swelling, discolouring ankle before turning back to the school exercise book he was holding to scrawl something else.
Other patients were waiting along the row of low armchairs and sofas lining one wall of the lost property room, or storage cupboard, or filing cabinet, or bin, or whatever the room was supposed to be. Possibly an office was hidden there, underneath the stacks of paper, the discarded notes and scraps of pamphlets.
The doctor had the best seat in the room, an imitation leather desk chair that wobbled awkwardly on its stand whenever he shifted his weight. Posters were sprayed, scattershot, over the walls, haphazard and disordered, like the aftermath of some informational firefight. Ebola warnings, hygiene recommendations, flowcharts on sexual abuse and malaria, mingled with bible quotes, nonsensical slogans and ‘motivational’ quotes.
The quotes about the loving mercy of God were placed in prime position behind the desk, in the periphery of anyone talking to the doctor. The medical information posters, shouting slogans about family planning and mosquito nets, and emblazoned with organisational logos, UNFPA, WHO, the Zambian Ministry of Health, were off to the right.
HIV prevalence in Samfya district, the area of Zambia I was working in, stands at about 8%.
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