In this train, neither passenger nor merchandise. At a train station in Soweto, law student Retshepile Mosena boards a train for an eye exam and a pair of glasses.
Stationed Tuesday in the township near Johannesburg, the Phelophepa, which means “good health” in Tswana and Sotho, crisscrosses South Africa nine months a year to provide medical care to the underprivileged, living in areas far from health establishments .
They are a few hundred that morning, waiting for a consultation. Among them, Retshepile Mosena says he tried to save money for two years since his eyesight began to decline. But “the eye tests are expensive, and the glasses even more,” explains the young girl, who will get by here for 30 rand, or less than two euros.
Fully equipped with optometric equipment, dentistry and even a pharmacy, the 19 wagons also offer general medicine and psychology consultations.
Managed by the public company Transnet, the clinic on rails started with three cars and optometric consultations, in 1994, explains to AFP the director, Thelma Sateke. The train receives 65,000 patients per year.
“The train still has a long way to go to bring services to rural areas where care is non-existent or scarce,” said Sateke, however, adding that in the country, “100% access to care is not ready. to be reached “.
The second industrial power on the continent, South Africa is nevertheless faced with significant poverty further aggravated by the coronavirus, which deprives some of access to medical care.