Many, many deaths could easily have been prevented with basic medical intervention – and many more with prevention through immunizations and simple peri-natal care.
We turned to two organizations – the Lutheran Church-funded clinic in Ketumbeine, and the Catholic-run Flying Medical Service, based in Arusha. Dr. Steve Friberg and Dr. Osmund Swai were legendary for their care in the vast Ketumbeine area. FMS, founded and run by Father Pat Patten, operated flying mobile outreach clinics in remote areas of northern Tanzania. These wonderful people agreed to help us: FMS to service Makat, and Dr. Swai to service Wosiwosi.
In Makat, Mel worked with the village to build – by hand – a 800 meter airstrip so FMS could land. We also purchased an HF radio, for the village to call FMS in for emergency evacuations. Meanwhile, with our financial help, Dr. Friberg and Dr. Swai bought a vehicle to enable Dr. Swai to travel to Wosiwosi for monthly clinics. We also donated a portable ultrasound and funds for his training.
There have been teething problems: inter-district bureaucracy and more airstrip maintenance kept FMS out of Makat for six months in 2012. The solar-powered radio is unreliable, and Makat villagers remain hesitant to call in FMS for evacuations. Dr. Swai doesn’t get to Wosiwosi as often as planned, due to poor road conditions and the burdens of his regular practice.
However, we feel the communities are using the outreach services with enthusiasm – especially immunizations for children. Thus, they are coming to understand their right to adequate healthcare, and of the options available to them when referred on to primary care facilities by Dr. Swai or the FMS team.