Tanzania program "teaches them forward."

Tanzania’s troubles are many, but a group from South Carolina hopes to “teach them forward”
By Tony Bartelme
Mwanza, Tanzania – Coffin makers line the winding road to Bugando Hospital, the main medical center for this teeming metropolis on the boulder-strewn shores of Lake Victoria. “I make about three a day,” said George, with an easy smile. “It depends on how many people die.”
I’m here with a group from the Medical University of South Carolina that for several years has been helping Tanzanians improve their health system.
The group is called Madaktari, plural for the Swahili word for doctor. Its focus is different than many other global health nonprofits. Instead of swooping in with Western doctors to treat patients and then leaving, Madaktari’s approach is to train existing medical workers to be more efficient, or as D. Word, the group’s director, said: “We want to teach them forward.”
Tanzania is a beautiful country of about 40 million people on the eastern side of Africa, south of Kenya. It has one of the world’s highest mortality rates. Average life expectancy hovers at about 50 years. Malaria and AIDS are the leading killers.
Before I left, I spoke with Robert V. Royall Jr., a former South Carolina banker and government leader who served as U.S. ambassador to Tanzania between 2001 and 2004.
“Sometimes you felt like you were dropping a rock in the ocean because the needs there are so great,” Royall said from his home in Huger. “You feel like you just can’t do enough. Water wells are needed everywhere. Schools are needed everywhere. The disease problems are horrendous.”
The problems are particularly frustrating because the country has so much potential, he said.
“They have tremendous resources: gold, copper, gemstones, diamonds.” The country’s spectacular landscape – from the Serengeti plains to Mount Kilamanjaro, draw tourists from across the world. It’s also relatively free from the tribal strife seen in neighboring countries.
“They had a president, Julius Nyerere, who’s considered the father of the country. He taught all the tribes to love each other, that Tanzania comes first, then comes their tribes. That was the good news. The bad news was that he established socialism.” The economy has mostly sputtered along over the past four decades, he said, though the economy has opened up in recent years. Still, “most people live on about $300 to $500 a year. The needs are great, and the people are very nice and receptive to learning, so the (Madaktari group) picked a great country to work in.”
Mwanza is in the northwestern edge of Tanzania and sits amid giant boulders along Lake Victoria. People build homes next to the boulders, and sometimes incorporate the rock into the structures. Bugando Hospital is the main hospital in the region, serving about 13 million people. It sits atop a hill overlooking the lake.
When people die in the hospital, relatives often walk down the hill to the coffin market, George explained. Wealthy people pay about $350 people for a white-painted casket with gold-plated decoration. Poor people pay about $70 for simple wooden coffin, or less for a smaller child’s coffin. As he spoke, a family walked up to another coffin-maker. “They are sad, you can see.”


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