To create a replicable model for the delivery of health care to children in the developing world and maximize our impact on the health and learning of young people, we needed to start small—small enough to be able to test our assumptions, discover what works and what doesn’t, and measure and evaluate our results. We were fortunate to find the perfect place to begin, the Ng’ombe community of Lusaka, Zambia.
Ng’ombe is a shanty compound located within the outskirts of Zambia’s capital city of Lusaka. Ng’ombe is a high-density, low-income community that lacks many social services, such as running water and proper waste disposal. Ng’ombe has a population of over 60,000 residents, many of which are under 18 years of age. Many children within Ng’ombe suffer from inadequate social services, such as education, health, sanitation, safe water, and proper waste disposal systems.
There are only two government schools in Ng’ombe to cater to the more than 15,000 youth living there. As a result, more than 11,000 children attend 50 community schools. Many of these schools receive sparse funding, and the children in attendance are the most vulnerable among the entire population.
A 2012 needs assessment by Harvard Medical School revealed that over 45% of children attending community schools in Lusaka suffered from a treatable disease. There is only one clinic within Ng’ombe to serve its more than 60,000 residents. There are a wide range of diseases negatively impacting children in Ng’ombe, which range from acute respiratory infections, TB, water-borne diseases and warm infestations. Our programs have found that as many as 20% of school attending children are infected with the parasitic disease schistosomiasis. The students of N’gombe need ongoing quality health education to promote healthy behaviors and minimize their health risks, access to clean drinking water at schools, and timely care when they are sick.
The stream in Ng'ombe is highly infected with schistosomiasis and causes for thousands of children to fall ill from the disease. These children suffer from symptoms ranging from fever, blood in urine, and general fatigue. If not treated, the diseases can attack the liver and lead to serious complications including death.