Travelreport to Tanzania by Peer Poelmann en Ron Onstenk
Due to the upcoming departure of the volunteers Dirk and Tineke from Sumve, in the Winter of 2015 we had already decided that a team of surgeons from Njokuti would visit Sumve in the Summer of 2016. For the last time we would be able to enjoy the fruitful cooperation with Dirk and Tineke and we could discuss arrangements with those who take over their work. Dirk and Tineke will leave after a period of 9 years in which they have put a lot of effort and energy into the improvement of the District Hospital, but also in several boreholes which are functioning properly in the Sumve area now.
In the clinic many patients were waiting for us. We saw children with leg abnormalities, bone infections and patients with old, not well-healed fractures. We were able to surgically treat more than 15 patients during the following days. This time we have still been working in the old theatre, but hopefully during our next visit we will be able to use the new theatre.
We flew back over the wonderful Serengeti, where at this time of the year the great migration of thousands of wildebeast and zebras was going on. The second part of our mission took place at the ALMC/Selian hospital in Arusha. Their clinic was also filled with children, mostly refered to us by the Plasterhouse (www. theplasterhouse.org), many of them with legs that needed surgical correction. Surgeries were divided over the two hospitals, ALMC and Selian, where two theatres had been allocated to our team. A large part of these surgical interventions were carried out by local surgeons: Dr. Benson, Dr. Roberts Maise and Dr. Daniel Otieno. A very enthusiastic team, and moreover very eager to learn! This way we have not only contributed to the rehabilitation of these children; we were also able to share our professional knowledge and expertise among each other.
An area of concern is the increase in costs that we have to pay for the medical registration and the special visa, which now amounts to more than € 500 per visit. The question is whether we can and want to afford such an amount for a 6-7 day period and 3-4 missions per year.
Due to unforeseen medical circumstances the itinerary of our trip to Sumve suddenly had to be altered. Frank Wijffels took the place of Peer Poelmann and the visit to Arusha was cancelled.
After the Sunday night flight via Nairobi to Mwanza the first patients were seen on Monday afternoon ( list 1). As usual the OPD was busy and somewhat chaotic and with plenty of time taken for teaching. Eventually a theatre list for Tuesday and Wednesday was made ( list 2). This time a physiotherapist from Amsterdam joined in but there were no medical students from Nijmegen.
Due to delay of our flight from Nairobi our arrival was unfortunately a bit later at Mwanzay, but Dirk was our representative on behalf of the welcoming committee.
Patients were already waiting In Sumve. A total of more than 50 patients presented till eight pm. Some of them without obvious orthopedic problems, but the majority had an abnormality of the musculoskeletal system. Unfortunately, we couldn’t offer treatment in a few patients because of the limited surgical options such as absence of fluoroscopy or specific instruments.
Each year primary school The Rainbow in Assendelft (North of Holland) organizes a day of action for a specific goal. This year the school chose to support the Foundation of Njokuti!
For the very first time they organised a sponsorrun. All children looked for sponsors amongst their family, friends and acquaintances to support them financially. Rona Snoek from the Foundation of Njokuti visited the school in order to inform the children about the work of Njokuti.
As partner of one of the consultants and with no experience in health care the unique opportunity arose for me to participate with a mission of Njokuti to Tanzania and as a team member to carry out various support tasks. I was able to experience much of the things I so often heard in the stories about the work of medical teams in Africa. And
I can now say – all the television pictures are correct: the long lines of patiently
waiting people, the over-crowded wards and the preterm babies that are rolled in
five’s together in a blanket and kept warm on an electric blanket. The resignation at the most horrible wounds is impressive.
At the end of 2010 I spent over three months in Tanzania to see the work of Njokuti Foundation and to evaluate their support in this East-African country. As a cultural anthropologist I previously conducted research in Kenya and Guatemala and in the future I will be doing research in Uganda. Spending a couple of months in Tanzania was a good experience and after arrival back in Holland I reported my findings to the board of Njokuti Foundation.
A few days after my arrival in Tanzania I join the outreach team of the ALMC hospital when they are visiting children with orthopaedic disabilities in the beautiful Longido area in northern Tanzania. A couple of days later I see some of these children back at the ‘plasterhouse’ in Arusha. In this centre dozens of children are awaiting surgery or are recovering from an operation that has usually be done in the ALMC hospital in Arusha. During most of my visits the young boys and girls are playing soccer, the plaster or the crutches don’t seem to hinder them in their games.