Ask anyone who knows even a little bit about Sub Saharan Africa what the biggest public health crisis in the region are and the first answers you will hear will undoubtedly be HIV (and the opportunistic infections that go along with it) and Malaria. These public health issues are serious and persistent – they are also popular in the funding world. When it comes to HIV and Malaria funding in Tanzania, pockets are deep.
28% of Tanzania’s National operating budget is supported by foreign aid – that’s $11.6trillion to you and me – and one third of that foreign aid is earmarked for HIV/AIDS initiatives. A quick Google search will provide you with all the information you could possibly want about the HIV epidemic in Tanzania – from funding cycles to popular initiatives.
But, just because HIV and Malaria are the popular kids, doesn’t mean there aren’t others furiously waving their hands for attention.
Trying to find statistical information on Cancer in Tanzania is a bit more convoluted. Cancer is not terribly high up on the funding food chain, most likely because it is not a communicable disease; however, that doesn’t mean that nothing is being done.
Tanzania is beginning to take cancer care seriously and NGOs are working with Tanzania's Health Ministry to expand cancer treatment across the country, raising awareness of signs that are often missed by doctors
I recently met the Director of Muhimbili Hospital’s Pediatric Oncology Ward and jumped at the chance to place students at this site as part of CIEE’s for-credit internship program.
The Irish-run “Tumaini La Maisha” (Hope for Life) was established in 2011 and is the first and only NGO dedicated to improving the wellbeing of children with cancer in Tanzania by providing non-clinical services such as a school, a play therapy program, and a family support program.
In its current state, there are 29 beds in the two existing cancer wards and there can be up 120 people living on the ward at any one time (that’s four people per bed).Due to overcrowding and patient resources, Tumaini la Maishi is in the process of opening a long-stay house for children and their guardians who are unable to go home between treatments; whether because of health, distance, or financial constraints.
The long-stay “Ujasiri House” has 11 rooms which will accommodate 22 children and 22 guardians. The house has two classrooms, a creative play therapy room, and a program room for guardians where they will participate in incoming-generating activities.
While paint dries and permits are signed, the Tumaini program remains at the main ward which is where two of CIEE’s students spend their Tuesdays and Thursdays volunteering with Tumaini’s play therapy and school programs working directly with young patients, tutoring them in math and English.
As part of CIEE’s for-credit internship program, student participants must complete an original research paper focusing on the sector to which they have been assigned. As previously mentioned, there isn’t an incredible amount of information flooding the world wide web about Cancer-related issues in Tanzania and I’m truly excited to have CIEE students contributing to the growing body of research, and even more excited to see how this shapes their academic and professional interests. Stay tuned.......
This post was brought to you by your friendly CIEE-Tanzania Resident Director: Jenny Vencek