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Marangu is a lush green rural Tanzanian town tucked in the shadows of the mighty Mt. Kilimanjaro. Residents walk its unpaved roads with loads of produce in tow, shouting “jambo” (hello in Swahili) to passersby on the way to sell off whatever surplus they may have of maize, coffee, plantains, avocadoes, or mangoes, the economic mainstays of the community. The trip is long to get to the market or hospital, several kilometres of walking and then hitching a ride on the public bus. In the rainy seasons, monsoons pound the roads into sludge and a 4x4 is necessary to gain access to the town.
When MEDLIFE visited for a 2016 Mobile Clinic, we found little infrastructure, and what did exist was in a state of dilapidation and disrepair. Modern bathrooms had been constructed at the local primary school by another NGO, but they had neglected to follow up with the community. The plumbing was not functioning, and no one in the community had the resources to bring in a plumber. As a result, the bathrooms had sat and festered, unused.
Many of the houses were very poorly constructed and offered little shelter from monsoons. One particularly dismal case was brought to our attention when during a mobile clinic, an 84 year-old woman wrapped in colorful cloth came in named Elianasia and asked us for help with her bathroom.
MEDprograms Associate Amber Pariona was on clinic that day and followed her through the jungle to see her bathroom. It was hard for Elianasia to walk so far, her leg was causing her pain. She lived all alone, all of her children had gone seperate ways and were not caring for her. Her husband died tragically in 1962. When Amber saw the rest of her house, she was surprised she was only asking for a bathroom.
Her kitchen was a fireplace sheltered by some wood poles and tattered rags, the bathroom was a hole in the ground covered by a small wooden board, which was being slowly devoured by ants and appeared it may collapse into the hole next time it was used. She did not have a room anywhere that could provide shelter from the rain. During monsoon season, she slept on a wet bed and tried to cook in the rain.
Before Amber left, Elianasia spit into her hand and rubbed it on Amber's forehead as a way of giving her a blessing. Elianasia left a strong impression on Amber, whom she remembers for having the best laugh in the world; high energy and contagious despite her circumstances.
After visiting Marangu, and meeting community leaders, MEDLIFE decided to do several projects in the community. MEDLIFE is going to bring in a plumber to fix the bathrooms at the local school, as well as construct offices for the teachers there so they have a space to work. Finally MEDLIFE is going to construct a new home for Elianasia, who deserves to live in a comfortable and safe home.
"I will be very happy if you can provide for me a house where I can stay," said Elianasia. "I am praying for you, so that god may bless you in everything that you do, thank you very much."
Thank you to GoodLife Travels for donating the money MEDLIFE needs for these projects! GoodLife Travels is a travel agency that donates at least 5% of all profits to MEDLIFE to make projects like this possible.
MEDLIFE is excited to announce a new project in Kirua, Tanzania. We did our first clinics there in August of 2015, and the community organized itself to work with us more. At a community meeting they asked us for help with the schools infrastructure.
Kirua is a rural agricultural community in the region of Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. Maize, bananas, mangos, and avocadoes make up the staple crops of the area, which the locals grow for food and sell of the extra in local markets. General infrastructure is undeveloped in rural Tanzania.
There are no paved roads that serve the village of Kirua, villagers must hike many kilometers to arrive at a road that is served by public transit with access to a major town.
Only 7.5% of people in rural communities have sanitary bathrooms. This means that a lot of waste drains into the river and contaminates the community's only water supply. A whole host of health problems like diarrhea and parasites, which were treated frequently in the clinics MEDLIFE held there, are caused by the contaminated river water.
The great importance of improving sanitation was summed up on a United Nations page about a global initiative to end open defecation: "Cross-country studies show that the method of disposing of excreta is one of the strongest determinants of child survival: the transition from unimproved to improved sanitation reduces overall child mortality by about a third. Improved sanitation also brings advantages for public health, livelihoods and dignity-advantages that extend beyond households to entire communities."
The quality of public education in general in Tanzania is very poor. According to a world bank report, about 25% of the population between the ages of 15 and 24 remains illiterate. Many schools are extremely overcrowded, with an average of 74.1 children per classroom and 50 students per teacher. One reason for this is that the infrastructure of the schools themselves is seriously lacking. Just 3% of schools have the basic services like electricity, water, and sanitary bathrooms. In the report, improvements in all of these measures were correlated with improved test scores. While only correlational, it does not take a great leap of the imagination to see how a school with basic services would create a better learning environment.
When a meeting was held with the community, they told us how they needed help with the school. The school serves 120 children. It is a simple school house, nothing but a room to teach in, no bathrooms, water, or electricity. They don't have enough desks, so many of the children must work on the ground. The children's meals are cooked over an open wood fire outside. Each kid has to collect some wood for the fire on their way to school.
They cook Ugali over the open fire and 3 large stones. Ugali is a staple dish made of corn flour that has the consistency of dough, along with beans. The Ugali is typically rolled into a ball and used to pick up the other food being eaten, like an edible utensil. The problem with the open kitchen and eating area is that it the wind blows dust and dirt into the children's food, causing diarrhea.
They told us that what they needed most was a kitchen and bathrooms for the school.
After listening to the communities concerns, MEDLIFE decided to do three projects at the Kirua primary school: a dining hall, a kitchen, and a bathroom project. MEDLIFE is also donating 29 desks and chairs so the children do not have to work on the ground. The kids will live a healthier lifestyle and have a better learning environment. MEDLIFE is proud to be able to help develop the community of Kirua, but we cannot do it alone. Please help by donating here.
MEDLIFE is thrilled to announce that the Empower Union Santa Fe Project has been funded and completed. Union Santa Fe is a community located high in the hills of Lima. MEDLIFE has been doing projects there for a long time. We have completed several staircase projects, constructed a daycare, and now we are proud to have brought electricity to this community.
7% of people in Latin America live without electricity, but in Peru 33% of people live without electricty, one of the lowest elecrification rates in Latin America. That means 530,000 people in Lima live without electricity.
Because of this project, 350 people will no longer have to live in darkness! One child told us that he loved not having to eat dinner in a dark home lit by a single candle. Electric lighting in the streets will improve safety, hardly anyone left their homes at night here because they felt it was too dangerous to be outside without light. Both because navigating the steep, loose, rubble strewn hills in the dark is difficult and because of crime.
Here are some pictures from the inaugeration day, where MEDLIFE staff and the community got together to celebrate the project.
From a Mobile Clinic near Esmeraldas in March 2016 before the earthquake.
Saturday April 16, 2016 a magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck the central coast of Ecuador near Muisne. Over 400 people have been killed and more than 2,500 people are injured or missing as of Tuesday the 19th, these numbers are expected to rise. Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa said that it was the greatest tragedy to hit the country since the 1949 earthquake in Ambato, and that the reconstruction will cost billions.
Collapsed building, from this pinterest page collecting photos of the earthquake.
This video taken on a security cam gives some idea of the intensity of the earthquake. In the main areas affected, such as Guayas, Esmeraldas and Manabi, infrastructure was devastated. According to the government, at least 370 buildings have been counted as destroyed. In the town of Pedernales, near the epicenter 80% of the town’s infrastructure was demolished. Soldiers and police have begun to patrol the area in an effort to prevent looting. Many people are homeless and the police have begun setting up shelters. A soccer stadium in Perdernales has been turned into a relief centre and morgue.
Engineer Enrique Garcia told the BBC that the Ecuadorian infrastructure was not prepared for such a disaster. The municipalities did not follow regulations to make sure that buildings were constructed with materials that could withstand a disaster, and thus many collapsed during the earthquake.
From this Pinterest page collecting photos of the earthquake.
All six coastal provinces are in a state of emergency. However, the quake was felt all over Ecuador, Quito lost power and several bridges collapsed in Guayaquil. Atacames, Muisne and Esmeraldas were evacuated, but there was no sign of a tsunami. The tremors were felt as far away as Cali, Colombia, where a clinic was evacuated.
From this Pinterest page collecting photos of the earthquake.
10,000 Ecuadorian military troops and 3500 police officers were deployed to assist in rescue operations. Foreign aid has begun to pour in, the Red Cross sent over 1000 volunteers, and Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela and Peru have sent manpower.
A devastated road, from this Pinterest page collecting photos of the earthquake.
Authorities told the AP that landslides, crumbling bridges and roads were making it very hard to reach the hardest hit. The hard to access rural communities that MEDLIFE works in are likely yet to be counted in the roundup of damage and casualties. In places like Carlos Concha and Tabiazo, the nearest hospital was a two hour bus ride from the town center on precarious roads, along with hours of hiking and a swim across the river for the majority of habitants who live in the dispersed settlements that have no road access.
A tienda in Pumpula, next to where the bus was parked for a March Mobile Clinic, sunken into the earth.
MEDLIFE has worked extensively in the rural communities around Esmeraldas and Atacames for years, both regions were hit very hard by the earthquake. MEDLIFE is not equipped for disaster relief, but we are using our fundraising capabilities to aid in the cause. Director of MEDprograms Ecuador Martha Chicaiza is in Riobamba collecting donations to send to affected areas. She said that travel by land is extremely difficult, many roads in the area were destroyed.
If Ecuadorian infrastructure as a whole was poorly suited to withstand an earthquake, many of the homes in the communities we work in are extremely poorly prepared. Martha has heard from communuty leaders that many homes have collapsed in Pumpula and Chinca, both communities where MEDLIFE held Mobile Clinics in March 2016.
Given the widespread destruction caused to the concrete buildings in the town centers, it is hard to imagine that elevated wooden houses like those in the photos below are still standing. All photos below are from a MEDLIFE trip to Esmeraldas in March:
This contruction style is common in the poorest rural communities near Esmeraldas. The houses are elevated to save them from seasonal flooding.
Martha is preparing emergency kits to send immediately to affected areas. We are collecting donations to put towards emergency relief here. Please donate now and send help to the victims of this terrible disaster.
The supplies to prepare emergency ration kits
A finished kit, ready to be send to the disaster zone.
Sources and further reading:
In Febuary 2016 MEDLIFE gave an educational workshop in Talleres Artisenales, a new community for MEDLIFE, located in Pamplona Alta. Year-long interns and local medical staff worked together to give the workshop. Topics included family planning, the importance of regular exams for breast and cervical cancer, what support exists for people in abusive relationships, as well as nutrition and diabetetes prevention. Many women there had never had a breast exam or pap smear, and were encouraged to come to the mobile clinic MEDLIFE will be holding in that community and see a doctor. Local medical staff explained realistic food substitutions people good make to have a healthier diet and reduce diabetes risk, for example, swapping soda for fruit juice without artificial sugars. Educational workshops are a great way to build awareness, organization, and trust within a community before moving onto bigger projects like staircases and mobile clinics!
A child brings a gift for the MEDLIFErs at the meeting.