FOR nine months of every year, Phelophepa I and II travel the country, spending one or two weeks at 40 stations countrywide reaching almost 400 000 underprivileged people through its onboard and community outreach programmes.
Last month, Phelophepa II began its 35week journey in Nelson Mandela Bay, docking at Swartkops Station (January 23 to February 3).
The train will remain in the Eastern Cape until March 17, before travelling on to the Free State, North West Province and the Western Cape.
Phelophepa (pronounced paylopepa), means "good, clean health" in Tswana and Sotho dialects. It takes the form of health, dental and visual screening, and basic health education, in state-of-the-art onboard facilities for thousands of people who would not ordinarily have access to these services.
"There are no doctors on the train," Transnet Foundation's operations manager for Phelophepa Onke Mazibuko said. "Phelophepa follows a primary health care model. It has dentists and oral hygienists, psychologists and counsellors, nurses, pharmacists, optometrists and optical dispensers. They are mostly finalyear students or interns."
Phelophepa has been in existence since 1994 and with more than 40 permanent staff and numerous volunteers, the train is more than a mobile hospital. It also provides outreach and educational programmes and has reached more than 20 million people thus far, making it the world's biggest mobile clinic.
It does not compete with or replace available health care services, instead it complements those services and aims to assist communities, who cannot afford health care and often experience barriers to access public health services.
Over the next nine months, just more than 60 health sciences students from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Univer 'Good, clean health' on rails sity (NMMU) will be joining the 1 250 finalyear students from across the country.
They will be working alongside trained professionals to bring primary health care to the communities, gaining invaluable practical experience in the process.
NMMU's Community Development Unit heads up the "social mobilisation" aspect of Phelophepa in the Eastern Cape, which involves setting up local organising committees at each station, to prepare for the arrival of the train and ensure the entire process runs smoothly, and has the maximum impact. It is the only university that manages this function.
Tel: +27 (0) 41 504 1111
Fax: +27 (0) 41 504 2574 / 2731
PO Box 77000, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University
Port Elizabeth, 6031, South Africa
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