Written by Dr. Penny Aeberhard
Anaemia testing reveals severe levels of anaemia in the project area, with up to 67 per cent of women and children showing serious to very serious anaemia. Facilitated by the Natron Health Project, Dr. Friberg and the District of Longido, and funded by the Godalming Rotary.
…110 starter packs of Haemoglobin Colour Scales were distributed to the Longido District’s nearly 100 healthcare workers in 2010. This was sufficient to run 22,000 anaemia tests. We aimed to provide enough test strips to check all children, maternity and malaria cases. 30 more packs were distributed in July, 2012.
Anaemia is very common due to changes in the Masai diet over the past two decades, with less meat and more maize. Worms, pregnancy and malaria then compound dietary insufficiency. Infection, childbirth and trauma often lead to premature death. Part of NHP’s Tackling Anaemia Project is educating villagers about the causes of anaemia (Dr. Penny and Dr. Swai, above).
NHP believes that if health workers accurately identify the problem, rather than “under-guestimate”, they will be in a good position to act and treat anaemia with cheap, effective iron and deworming tablets. The method, (see http://www.copackservice.de) developed by WHO, has been rigorously tested in Africa and other areas. It is portable for near-patient testing. Results are immediate and can be shared with the patient. The use of these devices needs no specialist training. NHP runs this with a concurrent education package, building on our successful 2009 sexual health programme. With the help of Rotary, NHP is tackling anaemia as part of its sustainable plan to improve the health of the Masai in a remote area of Northern Tanzania.
Interim report to feedback on haemoglobin (Hb) testing done by Drs Swai and Friberg, June 2010- February 2011
Following a pilot project in April 2010, we found that by using Copack’s WHO- approved Hb testing strips, there would be positive impact on health workers perception and awareness of anaemia in the rural population surrounding the small urban centre to Longido town, out in the rest of the Longido district.
The pilot tests done at Wosiwosi and Makat ( Magadini) village areas showed that in the main postmenopausal women and all adult men had normal levels, but many of the younger women in child bearing ages were anaemic. Children were also at risk, This was not surprising but it was notable that the under 5s were often severely anaemic. I thought that one reason could be that the children who attended school could have access to deworming tablets (especially as h ELNHP had been regularly supplying for three years, tablets to cover these children, but the under fives would not have been getting them because there was not a regular immunisation run to this community at that time, and even if there were the health teams were not implementing government guidelines to give all children deworming (with Vit A) six monthly.
This brief report is produced following the test results given to me by Dr Steven Friberg and teams. It is of such significance that I feel it is worth sharing the results to highlight the large problem in this area and to encourage widespread use of the tests (now provided, free, to all the Longido district health workers).
The report can also be useful for the DMO to report to the District Planning Officer, who can then ensure that the district has adequate supplies of paediatric and adult iron etc, that have unfortunately been inadequate for the district over the last months before my visit in April 2011.