Guest bloggers, Sharon and Rick Slettehaugh have been volunteering with WellShare International for several years both domestically and abroad. They are currently in the middle of their fifth volunteer trip to Tanzania for WellShare International. They are providing support to WellShare’s staff and partner hospital, as well as collecting data, stories and photos about WellShare’s programs.
We are here in rural Tanzania near the Serengeti for 2.5 months. It is our fifth trip to Tanzania with WellShare and we are especially impressed this time with the quality of their work on a very limited budget.
The Tanzanian government has built dispensaries, which are like a clinic, in many rural areas. They provide nutrition education, diarrhea and dehydration correctives, pregnancy tests, pregnancy checkups, deliveries, post-delivery care, check-ups for newborns and mothers, family planning, cervical cancer and other immunizations for mothers, babies and children and HIV testing and treatment. WellShare has been bringing health messages to dispensaries for more than four years. They keep getting invited back which is a tribute to their effectiveness and the quality of the work.
In 2018, WellShare received a generous donation of 35 iPads from the foundation Health eVillages. They are used to introduce health education in these remote villages. The iPads contain videos in Swahili on a variety of health topics. Included are messages about malaria, cholera, HIV/STD prevention, problems in pregnancy and after delivery, newborn care, breastfeeding, and others. All the dispensaries with the iPads have described amazing changes as a result of this method of education. All the participants say they prefer learning this way because they have pictures as well as teaching and they learn more. Most of these people have never seen TV, so they are fascinated with the technology also. Every place we have been, they stare with rapt attention.
We visited one dispensary where over 50 women and a few men were waiting with about 100 children. During these large gatherings, WellShare staff brings additional iPads to make certain everyone can see, and supplements the lessons. Q&A is always included to make certain the lessons are absorbed.
Gasuma Dispensary is in a remote location with no electricity. They have had iPads for only four months. Prior to that time, they had only had a few deliveries a month in their facility, with women choosing to deliver at home without proper monitoring or hygiene. Since this dispensary has used the iPads, there has been a dramatic increase in attendance and deliveries on site, up to 45 – 60 deliveries per month, and they can now refer potential problem deliveries to the nearby Songambele Hospital. This is a dramatic statement of how these women now recognize how vital it is to choose safe deliveries, since some have to travel more than six miles, usually by foot or bicycle. Although there are no cars available, for some there is the option of a motorcycle in the village, but they may have to pay the owner to take them.
The Health Worker, Peter, uses the iPad every day and is thrilled with the results. Women and men go back to their villages and share the knowledge with others. This is a very word-of-mouth culture and it is amazing how quickly news travels.
This is only one of the tools WellShare uses to improve the health of women and babies and change lives.
-Sharon and Rick
Stay tuned for more news from Sharon & Rick in the coming weeks!
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