‘Birth under avocado tree’ ups health outlet services in Kagera region

24Dec 2017
Guardian On Sunday
‘Birth under avocado tree’ ups health outlet services in Kagera region

MEDICAL services in some parts of north western Tanzania have improved after a woman gave birth to a child under an avocado tree while being assisted by a journalist.

Investigation done by the Tanzania Media Foundation (TMF) in Ngara district, Kagera region, has established that health outlets that were going without enough staff now have increased number of medical practitioners.

The investigation has also established that outlets that were operating without enough medical supplies now have medicines from the Medical Services Department (MSD) and get a substantial amount of money from the government to run them.

This turnaround of events came towards the end of last month after a community radio based in the district, Radio Kwizera, aired a series of broadcasts for nine months about the dire state of dispensaries, health centres and hospitals in the four regions of Kagera, Geita, Kigoma and Shinyanga.

The radio station had also reported that some health outlets used to be closed during weekends, making it difficult for patients to get medical services.

It cited the case of Ibuga village in Kabanga ward where medical staff of the village’s health outlet used to close the dispensary, compelling a woman who had turned up for services to give birth under an avocado tree while being assisted by a journalist.

The journalist, Rehema William, was one of the crew of Radio Kwizera, which was investigating the state of health outlets in the four regions after it got funding from TMF.

According to Kwizera Radio Manager/Production Officer, Alex Mchomvu, the media outlet decided to carry out the project because it wanted to investigate the country’s health policy in relation to the 2015-2020 Chama Cha Mapinduzi manifestos as it felt that the party was implementing things which may have not been indicated in its blueprint.

The woman who delivered under an avocado tree while assisted by a journalist, Laurensia Winston, narrating her ordeals to the TMF team said that it all happened on November 5, 2016 when she experienced labour pains and went to Ibuga dispensary only to find that its doors were closed to patients and there was no one to assist her.

Popularly known as Mama Kwizera (named after the radio station), Laurensia said:

“The labour pains were getting worse every passing minute and I decided to go to the avocado tree that was nearby where I called a neighbour to assist,” she said as she smiled.

“Luckily, they came and before I knew it, a team of journalists from Kwizera Radio Station came and joined hands to assist me to give birth to the baby boy, who I named Kwizera in honour of the assistance given by its crew,” recalled Laurensia.

For his part, Ngara District Medical Officer (DMO) Dr Revocatus Ndyekubora verifying the impact made by the radio’s broadcasts with the team said:

“The coverage by Radio Kwizera helped a lot to improve health services in the district as the government disbursed Sh10m to Ibuga dispensary where rehabilitation and construction of infrastructure is ongoing”.

He attributed the newly built infrastructure witnessed by the team at Ibuga dispensary to the TMF disbursed funds saying that was an ongoing process.

The medical staff, for their part, asked the government to build residential houses for them near the health outlets so as to enable them opens them throughout the week.

“I call upon the government to build residential houses for staff so as to enable us live near the centre as it is hard to work throughout the week while staying away from the centre,” said one of the medical staff who preferred anonymity.

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