Friday, August 14, 2009


We made it!
After a rather harrowing and bumpy ten hour drive from Dar es Salaam in a four wheeler yesterday, my rear end has officially recovered and I am currently lounging under a mosquito net in my room while the sun sets. Not bad at all. We are in Ifakara at the ttcih (tanzania training center for international health). It is really impressive. They want to be respected internationally, so they have wireless internet and awesome classrooms and buildings. Definitely like nothing I have seen in Africa before. This place doubles as a malaria research facility and they are doing very innovative cutting edge research on eradication. We heard from the director today and the stuff they are working on is fascinating. They are running trials right now on some sort of fungus that mosquitoes are attracted to. The mosquitoes (or Umbu in Swahili) touch it and die within 48 hours or something. Basically a green version of DDT.

Learned a lot today about primary health care and what that looks like in reality on the ground in a rural community. We had lectures from several of the doctors and researchers on site. I am convinced more then ever (well, actually I was pretty convinced before) of the necessity of community health workers. Especially because hospitals simply arent around in as many areas as people need them. We took a long walk through the hospital today and hung out in the women's malaria ward for a while. I attempted to remember my swahili from last time, and basically failed. Made a friend with a masai baby named Paul who looked malnourished and had malaria. His mom was there too and could not have been a day over 17. It was so difficult because there are ten of us westerners, and I hate being labeled as the token rich foreigners who walk into a ward to basically look at the sick people. We were all hired for this job for our creativity, brains, and entrepreneurial skills and we all hated the implications that we were treating the Tanzanians as projects. So we are developing a system which we are going to pitch to some of the leaders tomorrow in which we can potentially break into three smaller groups and take a translator with us to visit the different wards on different days. Much less overwhelming for the sick, and much more humanizing. And it will be much easier to talk to people. They have a large HIV/AIDS ward and I am praying that I can just stay there all day one day. Or at least a few hours. Most of you probably know HIV/AIDS is a huge passion of mine, and that was my sole purpose in coming to Tanzania the first time. I basically just want to spend as much time in the hospital with the sick as possible.

In many ways we are creating this program as we go, and need to ensure the learning we need to have to be effective when we go back to our home countries happens while here. This is hard because I really want to learn about everything the doctors tell us, but I also have to be simultaneously formulating questions about hands on programs with malaria, and how faith communities are involved/could potentially be more involved. I am foreseeing this to often include steering the discussion away from things I find incredibly interesting into slightly murkier waters where the questions dont really have answers.

What an exciting time to be involved in this fight! The questions dont have answers because the answers dont fully exist. Yet. That is why we are here. To help figure out the answers to questions about why people continue to die from malaria. And then change it. It costs 100 shillings (about 8 cents) for the anti-malaria drugs, and $2 for a bed net. Faith communities are perfectly positioned to help.

Our work is so important. Lives are on the line. If that is not incentive for me to throw my whole brain into this, I dont know what is.

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