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Boreholes, bright lights and bicycles: PWRDF improves healthcare in rural Tanzania

One of the boreholes drilled by PWRDF partner the Diocese of Masasi in Tanzania producing water for the community

April 25, 2019

By Mike Ziemerink

In Mindu Village, Tanzania, access to clean, safe water used to be a daily challenge. But with the installation of 25 boreholes with PWRDF’s partner the Diocese of Masasi, through the All Mothers and Children Count project, more than 8,000 households and 33,000 community members now have clean water every day.

Before the boreholes were drilled, women and girls would have to walk four kilometers each way to retrieve water from a pond. The pond water was not safe for drinking and often lead to outbreaks of waterborne diseases like cholera in the village.

Zainabu is a wife and mother of two sons and one daughter living in Mindu village. Before the borehole, her and her daughter would make the long walk to the pond each morning. This meant her daughter would miss her morning subjects at school and was often punished for being late.

“Thanks to the AMCC Project and their partners for this generous support of drilling a borehole in our village,” said Zainabu. “I am now more than happy because I no longer have a lengthy walk every day to fetch water, and my daughter no longer misses subjects or being punished, as now, she doesn’t arrive at school late.”

Since the borehole has been drilled in Mindu Village, girls are spending more time in school and mothers now have more time to visit health clinics, leading to better maternal and newborn health in the village.

“I am also very proud when I see the children going to school instead of having to walk long distances to find water in a dangerous swamp area as they used to,” said Jackson Gayo Mlaponi, a chairperson in Mindu Village. “And, indeed, the incidence of waterborne diseases, such as diarrhea and other parasitic infections, has decreased drastically, and thanks for the AMCC project and partners.”

About 300 kilometers to the east, the AMCC project is shining light on another issue facing women in Ngapa village.

Most people can’t afford electricity so they rely on kerosene lamps. The money spent on filling the lamps takes away from families’ livelihoods and leaves them with less money for healthy, nutritious food.

“The amount of money every household uses to buy kerosene every day for lighting — if they could be able to save that money, they would be able to buy food that could be enough for household requirements,” said Thiemo Ndunguru, Assistant Clinical Officer at Ngapa dispensary.

It is not only residents who rely on kerosene lamps. The Ngapa dispensary, which provides healthcare for Ngapa as well as the adjacent village Mnazimmoja, worked only by kerosene light before the AMCC project intervened.

The lack of electricity meant extra costs for the clinic, as they could not properly store vaccines and had to have them transported to a healthcare centre 40 kilometers away. When women came to the dispensary to give birth at night they would often need to bring their own lamps to provide lighting during delivery.

The dispensary received a solar energy system as part of the AMCC program to provide sustainable, reliable electricity.

“Since the AMCC project installed solar power, we are in a very comfortable environment in providing services,” said Ndunguru. “For example, the vaccine refrigerator is running 24/7 without power shortages and delivery service at night is properly done with sufficient light and no more smoky oil lamps or faint-light torches used.”

Healthcare in the remote villages of Tanzania still faces difficult struggles. Many of the rural clinics are not properly equipped to handle emergencies and often have to refer them to district hospitals. Many of these hospitals are at least a three-hour walk away.

“This distance can be enough of a disincentive for people to seek healthcare, even when it is urgent,” said Mahamoud, a community health worker with the AMCC project. Since the project began, however Mahamoud has received a bicycle that he uses to transport patients in need to the district hospital.

“I am thankful for the AMCC provided bicycle, which gives me the ability to transport people who need the help. This can significantly shorten the trip, especially since the bicycle can be used to take shortcuts that even motorcycles cannot manage.”

-with files from Bart Dickinson

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