Stories of Challenge and Hope from Our Partner in Tanzania
However long the night may last, there will be a morning.
We’re facing a difficult time in our history as the world copes with the coronavirus. It would be easy to succumb to anxiety and to focus only on ourselves.
But that’s not who we are – as a nation, or as Gilchrist.
We are people who take care of others – we offer hope and compassion to not only the families we serve throughout Central Maryland, but also others throughout the world who are suffering with serious illness.
An Update from Tanzania
As much as we are struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic, our partners in Tanzania at the Nkoaranga Lutheran Hospital’s Palliative Care and Hospice Program are struggling even more. Their number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has quickly jumped from one in mid-March to 509 as of May 12, with many more suspected cases. Our friends in Tanzania say their health system may quickly become overwhelmed due to lack of personal protective equipment, medical supplies and testing facilities. I’m afraid they have a looming crisis ahead. In their poverty-stricken nation, the virus will likely spread like wildfire.
Our friends in Tanzania need us now more than ever. Many of the villagers are particularly vulnerable, such as those with cancer and HIV who are immuno-compromised. And with Tanzania’s fragile economy, a total lockdown could be disastrous, as lack of food, water and other basic needs might end up killing more people than the coronavirus itself. Women and children might be particularly impacted due to gender roles in this part of the world. Nkoaranga’s palliative care teams will be coming face-to-face with the challenge of providing care to this high-risk group without most of the necessary supplies and protective equipment.
Right now their staff is focused on prevention, education and awareness efforts. They are also engaged in advocacy with local and international partners. But given that the entire world is suffering from the pandemic, help will be hard to find.
We will keep in touch with our partners and do everything we can to help them. In these challenging times, I am reminded of the hope we have given to so many of the villagers over the past 11 years. Since the partnership’s inception in July 2009, together with the community, Gilchrist has raised over $740,000 for their program. We have provided medical care and support for the more than 1,300 patients that Nkoaranga cares for, with a staff of just five people and a handful of volunteers.
We have given hope to children like Maurine, an 8-year-old orphan born with HIV/AIDS whose mother died of the same disease when Maurine was only five months old. Both of her grandmothers were poor and could not provide her with adequate care. She was physically abused, denied her medication and became malnourished, developmentally delayed and developed recurrent infections. Left alone in the home, she was raped by a neighbor.
When Maurine was referred to the Nkoaranga Palliative Care team, her life changed. She finally received the care she needed, and with the support of neighbors and village leaders, her care improved. She resumed antiretroviral therapy for her HIV/AIDS, her infections were treated and the team social worker found a residential placement at a children’s home. Maurine is now safe, and she is receiving the medical care and education she needs and deserves. Thanks to Gilchrist’s support of this program, Maureen is now a happy, well-cared-for child.
These children still need us, even when we are in the midst of our own crisis. We are grateful for your past help and look forward to your continued support in the future.
Have a Moment?
Watch a brief message from Dr. Paul Mmbando as he talks about their needs during this pandemic. Your support goes a long way for our partners. Please consider a donation now.
To learn more about Gilchrist’s partnership with Tanzania and how you can help, visit https://gilchristcares.org/about/tanzania/.
Robin Stocksdale, MSW, LCSW-C
Global Partnership Coordinator, Tanzania