“One day while I was working, I felt a sharp pain in my right cheek which started swelling from the inside and grew outwards overtime until half of my face was infected”, recalls Mwabu Lukalanga a 51 year old refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo who successfully underwent surgery to remove an ameloblastoma he had endured for six years. It took some eight hours of surgery to remove the tumor, an extra four for an operation that is generally done within four hours. Fortunately for him the infection was removed in time preventing growth of the tumor that could have developed into a cancer.
Mwabu’s problems started back in 2011 with an infection in a tooth root that was left untreated for several years. At the time he was not able to have it treated as he could not afford the cost. His main source of income working at casual jobs was often used up for the needs of his family. At one time he was forced to stop working altogether as the infection affected his physical strength. His three children had to pull out of school due to lack of school fees, and his wife struggled to make ends meet for the family.
Luck befell him when he heard about the medical assistance offered by the Zambia programme of Action Africa Help International from other refugees in the camp where he lived. Upon inquiry about his eligibility for support from programme personnel he was considered for the medical assistance and quickly scheduled for examination at a Mission hospital in Nchelenge, a town in Luapula Province of Northern Zambia. After examination it was noted that the infection had morphed into critical growth that needed to be surgically removed at a hospital with sufficient capacity to handle the operation. So Mwabu was referred to the University Teaching Hospital (UTH), one of the major referral hospitals in Lusaka the capital center and largest city in Zambia. Mwabu recalls the day with a smile “I was relieved when the doctors told me that there was a solution to my condition, because I had suffered for a long time”.
Late last year in September Mwabu was admitted at UTH, although still dealing with severe pain then he eagerly awaited the operation for three days as he had to be prepared for it. Finally at the end of day three and after six years of living with a painful and distorted jaw he was cured. After the operation Mwabu said that he felt like a huge weight had been lifted off him. Back home his wife and children were anxiously waiting for his return and were equally delighted with the results of the surgery upon seeing him. His physical strength gradually returned after the surgery and now sleeps well at night without being awaken by pain from his jaw.
The surgery to remove the tumor at the University Teaching Hospital (UTH) was facilitated by the Health and Referral Facilitation services that Action Africa Help Zambia programme provides in settlement camps located in Western, North-Western and Luapula provinces of Zambia, which border the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Since 2018 the Health and Referral Facilitation services has enabled refugees from Maheba and Mayukwayukwa settlements in the North-Western and Western provinces get access to specialised medical care. The services provided include transport to and from a transit centre and hospital for refugees in need of medical treatment, accommodation at the transit centre in Chilenje for refugee patients undergoing medical treatment, and procuring of prescribed medication for the patients.
The Health and Referral Facilitation services is part of the project for Provision of social and health assistance for refugees and asylum seekers in urban areas aligned to SDG number 3 which seeks to achieve universal health coverage, access to quality essential healthcare services and access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all.