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Mud Huts And Mobile Phones
TB, malaria, AIDS and infections of every sort flourish in the mud-huts of Kenya and Tanzanis. John Donnellan travelled to witness the appalling conditions.
John Donellan, 24 Sep 2007
The road safety slogan in Nairobi reads ‘Hospital ceilings are boring – drive safely’. They should apply a similar warning to the food. Twelve of us travelled to Africa and after our first meal, five came down with a vicious dose of food poisoning.
All my life I’ve admired volunteer workers. I often expressed the thought that I’d love to spend a year abroad helping the starving kids of whatever humanitarian crises was popular at the time. Admittedly, I only ever mentioned it in the company of pretty and impressionable save-the-world types. But then an opportunity presented itself. A group of medical personnel from UCHG, including my better half, were heading to Tanzania to help out at a health centre for a fortnight and I was offered a place on the team.
I’ve no real medical experience apart from a summer spent wiping bums and shaving pubes while posing as a nurse’s aide some 20 years ago. However, thanks to the deteriorating health of the group, my limited skills soon became invaluable.
Our destination was the Simanjiro Health Centre, which is in the middle of nowhere in Tanzania. If you need directions – fly to Kilimanjaro, drive for an hour to Arusha, then for three hours over dirt tracks filled with potholes the size of Rift Valley lakes. Turn right at the failed maize crops and you can’t miss it. Whatever you do, don’t stop to eat in the deceptively plush-looking Impala Hotel.
The Health Centre is basically a small hospital run by the Divine Word missionaries and largely supported by the impressive fundraising activities of a group from Athenry, Co. Galway. They call it The Athenry-Simanjiro Partnership. Not the catchiest name, I’ll admit. It doesn’t have the cache of Concern or Trocaire, but in its own way it is extremely effective. This group have, for all intents and purposes, adopted a tiny area of Tanzania and made a huge improvement there.
It’s not unique, this partnership, but there are very few in existence, which is a shame. I found myself comparing it to the rather pointless town-twinning which is faddish in Ireland. My own city of Galway is twinned with Bradford, as far as I’m aware. Wouldn’t it be more productive and satisfying to adopt somewhere in the developing world and make a real difference – Leitrim, anybody?