Middletown, Connecticut — Healthcare in Tanzania has a range of issues, such as a lack of health infrastructure, an increased risk for vector-borne diseases and HIV/AIDS. However, Empower Tanzania Inc. is working tirelessly to change that. According to Denise Edwards, a volunteer nurse and mental health specialist at the organization, they completely changed the healthcare landscape in Tanzania. Additionally, they improved healthcare and resources for pregnant mothers and working with AIDS patients.
Diseases Impacting Tanzania
As of Aug. 6, 2021, the adult prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Tanzania was 4.7%, with particular regions reaching up to 15.4%. With limited resources, this is especially devastating throughout the country. Not only are many unaware of their infection status, but they are unable to receive the necessary treatments that would allow them to live with the disease.
Tuberculosis is also a devastating disease in Tanzania. According to the Stop TB Partnership, 33,000 people died of tuberculosis in 2019, and 137,000 people developed the disease.
Lack of Health Infrastructure in Tanzania
According to Edwards, health infrastructure in Tanzania was in need of dire help when she first joined the organization 15 years ago. However, throughout those 15 years, there was a drastic improvement in access and availability of resources for citizens.
One major issue when Edwards first joined the organization was safe motherhood. Adequate care wasn’t available to pregnant mothers. Additionally, resources, both before and after birth, were scarce. When women were in labor, they sometimes had to go to the hospital on the back of a bicycle. Likewise, they often wouldn’t make it far enough and would bleed out on the side of the road.
Ensuring Safe Motherhood in Tanzania
To address this alarming maternal mortality rate, Edwards and the rest of Empower Tanzania knew that things had to be changed. One of the first things they did was create local examination buildings in villages, where mothers could have an examination without having to travel long distances.
Empower Tanzania also focuses on providing knowledge and resources, rather than purely aid. This ensures that citizens have the knowledge and the skills to provide for themselves if aid decreases, rather than depending on aid to survive. To this end, the organization trained birth attendants, who would be of assistance to women with pregnancy issues. As for the issue of going into labor, Empower Tanzania organized a van to visit the site. Once a month, professonals would visit the women and transport them to a hospital if needed.
According to World Bank statistics, this work drastically decreased the prevalence of maternal mortality. In 2006, the maternal mortality rate was 703 per 100,000 live births. In 2017, however, that rate moved down to 524 .
Disease Education and Risk Reduction in Tanzania
The primary mission of Empower Tanzania is to provide knowledge to people living in disease-affected areas. However, they knew that a more sustainable solution was necessary.
According to Edwards, “We got women without electricity solar iPads, and videos were made about safe water, hygiene, [and]protecting yourself from mosquitos.”
The videos were translated to Swahili, and people quickly got the message. So, this initiative allowed people to educate themselves on diseases and hygiene without the need for other resources like electricity.
How Tanzania has Changed Over the Past 15 Years
As a nurse, Edwards spoke about her experience at Empower Tanzania and the conditions that the organization had to work with 15 years ago. “When I got to Tanzania… the only medication we had was Tylenol. We didn’t have morphine or anything like that.”
Edwards then proceeded to talk about just how much healthcare in Tanzania has improved. “Now, we have moved forward, and we have worked with people to bring medication to people in that area. We have moved from people dying from AIDS to people living with AIDS.”
Although there is much more work to be done, Edwards is right. Lots has changed about healthcare in Tanzania, like the stark decline in maternal mortality rates and deaths from AIDS. If organizations like Empower Tanzania receive more funding, healthcare reform implementation could result in change on a much larger scale.
– Samuel Weinmann