Bowled over in Zimbabwe, Ireland players touched by visit to local health clinic
March 21st 2018 | International
Members of the Ireland cricket team have taken time out of their busy playing schedule to meet new mothers and babies at a rural health clinic, benefiting from Irish Aid and UK Aid support, in Zimbabwe this week.
During their visit to the Rutope Clinic, located in Bindura approximately 50 miles from the capital Harare, the players spent time with nine members of staff hearing about the challenges of working in rural Zimbabwe in a town of 14,000 people and their experiences of helping almost 600 expectant mothers deliver their babies every year.
They saw the lifesaving impact of the Health Development Fund (background fact sheet) – supported by both Irish Aid and UK Aid – which is reducing maternal and child deaths, expanding immunisations against deadly diseases, increasing the proportion of births attended to by skilled health workers and increasing access to sexual reproductive health services for women and girls.
Andrew Balbirnie, fresh from scoring a century in Ireland’s last match against Scotland, said:
“As international cricketers we have a relatively fortunate life, playing the sport we love and travelling the world. What is truly inspiring and grounding is coming to a clinic like this one and seeing the remarkable work of everyone involved to try and provide an invaluable resource to the community.
“My teammates and I are very grateful to have been invited here, to see first-hand the work that is being supported by Irish aid and UK aid. We have met some amazing people who work so hard to improve the lives of others in their community and have particularly enjoyed meeting so many kids and learning a bit about their lives.”
Image: Gary Wilson and Andrew Balbirnie chatting to the families at the clinic
Chris Siddell, Team Operations Manager for the Ireland Men’s team who accompanied the players to the clinic visit, said:
“Touring with a national side is often much more than just the action on the field and we always try and learn as much as we can about the countries we visit.
“We also recognise the responsibility we have as representatives of Ireland when abroad and it was a great pleasure for us to visit a rural health clinic supported by Irish aid and UK aid.
“It was humbling to see first-hand the work that is being done and the huge benefit it is having on the local community - particularly for parents with young children. We are proud that Irish Aid is working with local partners here in Zimbabwe to improve people’s lives.”
The players also saw a Mother’s Waiting Home that is under construction that will house expectant mothers and offer pre-natal care. Many women live long distances from the clinic, without access to transport in the event of going into labour. These delays can cost the lives of the mothers and their babies. The new Mother’s Waiting Home will help ensure pregnant women are at the clinic nearer to the time of labour and receive the necessary medical support. This ward will give the mums-to-be a few days to get off their feet, receive proper medical attention and a chance to gather their strength before their deliveries.
Image: A traditional welcome song induces some smooth dance moves from Andrew Balbirnie
Head of DFID Zimbabwe and South-Africa, Annabel Gerry and Irish Ambassador, His Excellency Liam MacGabhann joined players Niall O’Brien, George Dockrell, Peter Chase, Ed Joyce, Andrew Balbirnie and Gary Wilson, as well as assistant coach Ben Smith, physiotherapist Conor Gavin and Team Manager Chris Siddell.
Gary, who became a father for the first time last week when he flew back to the UK to be with his wife when she gave birth, met a pair of 6-week old twins waiting for their first injections.
Under the shade of the trees outside the clinic, the team listened to members from the Sista2Sista Club – a community-run initiative which identifies young and vulnerable girls between the ages of 10-24 years old and offers them mentors who advise them on sexual and reproductive health as well as teaching them life-skills. This support aims to reduce fertility rates of girls in rural areas, to increase the use of family planning and reduce the prevalence of gender based violence. Nearly 24,000 vulnerable girls have been recruited into Sista2Sista clubs across Zimbabwe between 2016 and 2017.
The Health Development Fund, is a pooled funding mechanism to the health sector and the funding partners are the UK, Ireland, Sweden, European Union and the Global Alliance for Vaccines (GAVI).
Image: The local initiative also includes solar panels to generate power to ensure the health centre can operate after dark if required.