Thursday, September 19, 2013

Ambulance Appeal

Some fantastic people are helping to raise funds for an ambulance for our under-serviced rural area. We applaud the efforts of the Alkebulan Ambulance Appeal, and offer some additional information about the project here.

People needing emergency care, currently have to walk sometimes over
half a day to the closest facility, or be transported by bicycle.

Mdabulo Ambulance Project
Mdabulo Health facility is located in Mdabulo Ward, in Mufindi District, Iringa Region, Tanzania. It is surrounded by green tea fields, rain forest, and brown muddy roads. The nearest Hospital to the facility is over 50 kilometers away in the district Capital of Mafinga, and depending on dry season or rainy season travel, a bus ride can take from 4 to 8 hours. Many of the 30,000-40,000 people that live in the area around Mdabulo have never been to Hospital, or have never experienced even some of the basic health care services. A small NGO in the area started by the Fox family who have lived in Mufindi since 1959, is trying to change all of that. Since 2005, Foxes’ Community and Wildlife Conservation Trust (Foxes’ NGO for short) has worked with a holistic approach towards enabling the community to care for all of its orphaned and vulnerable children. The area around Mdabulo has a very high HIV prevalence, in part due to the migrant work brought in through the tea industry, and the heavy transport that comes through the rural area that is less equipped with educational resources to prevent the spread of HIV. The NGO has made improvements at local schools, given services towards direct orphan care such as the completion of a children’s village (orphanage), and has improved health services at local facilities.

At Mdabulo, a big construction project is underway to complete the area’s first Hospital that will serve the 30,000 – 40,000 people in the area with basic health services such as minor and major surgery, x-ray, dental facilities, and more. There has already been much accomplished at Mdabulo, including the refurbishment of Doctor’s consultancy rooms, a newly constructed pharmacy, and an entire new Maternity wing with pre-natal care equipment, and a labour room, that has encouraged more and more women to have their children at a health facility, instead of at home in the village.
As mentioned already, the HIV/AIDS pandemic has had an enormous impact on this rural community. The disease has spread to so many, and the area has had so few resources to fight back, that community at large has suffered from a vicious cycle of poverty, and the number orphaned and vulnerable children has become overwhelming. Great strides have been made by the community however, in just the past few years, as advancements in access to HIV treatment brought on by the NGO have created a healthier community that is now better equipped to care for its children. Just four years ago, HIV treatment was only available in the district capital, and for many the $9 cost of transport there and back made treatment impossible. Eventually a Care and Treatment Facility was built at Mdabulo allowing for treatment to happen in the village for the first time.
Now there are corners of the community that are still cut off from treatment by the great distances they have to travel, and an outreach program is being conceptualized to extend the care and treatment services to other health facilities in remote areas.

Availability of an ambulance vehicle would put an end to the heroic, but laborious efforts of family and neighbors who try to transport the sick to the far away health facility by bicycle, or by foot. An ambulance would help patients arrive safely at the health facility, eliminating the unfortunate occurrence of patients not making it to the health facility, and literally dying on their way. An ambulance would eliminate the all to frequent occurrence of expecting mothers going into labour and having their child in the road, or in a field, as they were unable to travel fast enough by bicycle or by foot to reach the health facility in time. An ambulance would also encourage the community to use the health facility more often, thus saving lives, and preventing illness. The mere presence of an ambulance in this rural community would have a salubrious influence on the community, and would improve overall health in the area.
In addition to these positive effects, the ambulance would save many lives due to better access to HIV treatment, and therefore the inevitable HIV prevention education that comes with it. The ambulance would be used to transport the Care and Treatment Clinic for HIV’s staff once a month to a remote health dispensary more than 20 kilometers away, thus enabling another 8 villages, or over 15,000 people, better access to HIV treatment. The once a month clinics worked for three and half years at Mdabulo, and in that time, enrollment for the HIV treatment program went from just over 200 patients, to nearly 1,500. Now there are over 2,000 patients enrolled, and the number is constantly growing, as with better access to treatment, the community has banished stigma, and education has spread about this disease, and how it may be controlled, and spared from the lives of the community’s children.

A community will be hard pressed to advance itself when it is not healthy. This must happen in order for life to go on. The presence of an Ambulance at the Mdabulo health facility is a massive step towards a brighter future for this community, and a huge bump in progress towards positive development for this part of Mufindi. With this project completed, lives will be saved, and the people of Mufindi will be better equipped to pull themselves out of poverty.

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