Making childbirth safer for Tanzania’s women
You might remember the 2012 blog post about how FedEx supported a maternity ward at a hospital in Tanzania. I am the coordinator of this project on behalf of the German medical charity action medeor, one of Europe’s largest such organizations.
This summer I had the opportunity to visit the ward and see for myself with my own eyes the great progress that has been made so far. I am now delighted to report back to you.
In July, my colleagues Christoph Bonsmann, Joachim Siebert, Dr. Mardai and I flew on a Cessna aircraft from Arusha airport to Endulen hospital in the Ngorongoro Conversation Area in northern Tanzania. After having chased away the cattle of a small Maasai boy from the ´runway`, we touched down on a dusty landing strip in the middle of the beautiful countryside of the Ngorongoro area. Our local contact Dr. Kessy and her colleagues were already expecting us and showed us the hospital and maternity wing. The hospital currently employs two doctors, 21 nurses and midwives. It provides health care to about 70,000 mainly Maasai people. Thanks to the great financial support from FedEx in 2012, action medeor was able to provide a small solar power station, medication and medical devices for the maternity ward.
During our visit, about 30 traditional birth attendants (TBAs) participated in a workshop led by a qualified nurse on the importance of pre- and postnatal care and safe deliveries at the hospital. Most Maasai women give birth to their babies at home. The only assistance most of them have access to are untrained, ill-equipped TBAs.
Another important aim of the project to is raise awareness of the advantages and the importance of pre- and postnatal care and deliveries in a safe and clean environment with the support of professional health workers at the Endulen hospital. The new maternity wing and the health care services also provide a walk-in service to the community. The success of the project is already visible as the number of safe deliveries has increased and pre- and postnatal care has improved significantly. I had the chance to talk to three pregnant women at the maternity wing. All of them were relaxed and looking forward to giving birth to their child in a safe environment.
However, not everything goes to plan. For example, at the end of 2012, the X-ray unit of the hospital broke down. In Endulen, tuberculosis is still endemic and for a proper diagnosis, X-rays are absolutely essential. According to Dr. Kessy, about 20 people are X-rayed on average per day. Now, patients have to endure a 1 ½-hour drive to a hospital in Karatu to get an x-ray. So during our visit, only three TB patients were among the 42 out of the 72 beds occupied – a number which normally is much higher. Additionally, the operating theatre still does not have a proper anesthetic machine, which can also be used for children. Again it was FedEx that came to the rescue with a new X-ray unit as well as an anesthetic machine that have been ordered and are on their way to Endulen hospital.
At the end of the day, we experienced highly-motivated and tireless personnel, high quality health care services, a friendly environment and great appreciation of the community and the personnel for the support of action medeor and FedEx. I am very grateful to be part of this great project.