Through Their Eyes

Hike for Healthcare Initiation

For the past 8-10 weeks, we have been posting stories of children who receive services from BCC either through the day centers or through the in-home support services. The stories have summarized each child’s economic situation, family situation, general health and ways that BCC’s services have benefited that child. We thought that these stories might give a good context of the children’s situations to people following our blogs. The stories help give a face to the struggles that the families and children face every day.

For most of the children, the greatest two struggles are poverty and healthcare. Unfortunately, extreme poverty limits healthcare, and individuals with poor health have more difficulty working. Here in Tanzania, these individuals often find that this situation causes them to fall deeper and deeper into poverty. Internationally, poor healthcare and poverty seem to be a vicious cycle.

Some of the children that we have reviewed, such as Fatuma, suffer from extreme malnutrition. Their families cannot afford food, and poor nutrition often leads to poor healthcare. Fatuma is 5 years old and weighs 16 pounds. Fortunately, her mother is working in the second bag cooperative that BCC started. This means that her family’s income is increasing and the chance that her parents will be able to afford food and healthcare is also increasing.

Ebenezer represents another general demographic of children that we have written about. His mother is directly employed through BCC. Before her employment, she could not afford to pay for healthcare for Ebenezer; now Ebenezer receives regular nutritious meals and his mother is able to pay for a doctor visit when Ebenezer becomes ill. Since most of the employees for BCC are parents or caregivers of children who are served by BCC, many children receive benefits from the increase in steady income and more frequent healthcare visits.

Unfortunately, most of the children served by BCC share a similar story to Rukia, another young girl we wrote about. Rukia’s mother died when she was very young. Her father still takes care of her, but most of her family does not help her and her father because they view Rukia as a curse. Rukia’s father is a day laborer and typically earns the Tanzanian national average of $40 per month. The father can barely afford food and housing for Rukia. If Rukia falls ill, her father cannot afford to pay for her healthcare. Often, the family has to ask for assistance from BCC. Unfortunately, BCC does not currently have a program to pay for Rukia’s healthcare.

Many of the general health facts in Tanzania are staggering when compared to developed countries. The infant mortality rate is 68 deaths per 1000 births, compared to 7 deaths per 1000 births in the United States. In Tanzania 19% of children less than five years old are underweight, compared to 2.8% in the United States. In Tanzania, 30% of children have stunted growth due to undernourishment, compared to 7.1 % in the United States. The life expectancy in Tanzania is 52 years, compared to 77 in the United States. Diseases that are highly treatable or preventable – malaria, pneumonia, and dysentery – are the top causes of death in Tanzania.

Relatively speaking, healthcare in Tanzania is affordable when compared to Western standards. A general doctor visit costs about 4,000 Tanzanian Shillings, or about $3.00 in U.S. Currency. Since the average Tanzanian makes about $40 per month, this is very expensive. Most families cannot afford general health visits and only go to the doctor in severe emergencies.

While working with Rich and Barb, our Mosaic supervisors, we decided to initiate a fundraiser. We are planning to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro and raise funds for the healthcare program with a fundraising program called the Hike 4 Healthcare. We have been working diligently with Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center (KCMC) to organize a healthcare program for the children served by BCC.

The Hike 4 Healthcare offers the opportunity to sponsor a child for one year in an alternative healthcare system. The money raised through the Hike 4 Healthcare will be used to fund an alternative health care system for 200 children for three years. This year BCC will provide general first aid training for caregivers, training in preventive healthcare for caregivers and BCC staff, and general first aid supplies for the day centers. With the addition of the alternative healthcare program, the quality of healthcare for the children of BCC will increase dramatically.

Due to the cost of a general healthcare visit, we estimate that each of the 200 children can receive at least two general doctor visits, quarterly preventive healthcare exams from medical students, one vision exam, one dental exam, and any suggested medications for approximately $6,000 per calendar year.

We have decided that there will be 600 segments to our climb of Mt. Kilimanjaro. In order to raise $18,000 for the alternative health insurance program, donors can pledge $30 for every segment of the climb. Each $30 donation will fund one child in the alternative healthcare program for one year. Through a generous donation from a church youth group in the United States and a grant, we have already raised $3,000 for Hike 4 Healthcare.

Since its beginning in 2007, BCC has served nearly 240 children; 16 of those children have died. Most of the deaths have occurred from treatable or preventative diseases. Hike 4 Healthcare and the alternative healthcare program will be dedicated to their memory.

We will continue to write about how healthcare and poverty work in the lives of children served by BCC during our duration in Tanzania. We will climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in March, the final month of our fellowship. If you have any questions about Hike 4 Healthcare or if you are interested in donating, please contact us at john.melissa.tanzania@gmail.com, or Mosaic International Resource Development Manager Megan Moslander at megan.moslander@mosaicinfo.org, or by phone at 877-3MOSAIC or 402-896-3884. You can also donate via the Hike 4 Healthcare website.

Quality preventive healthcare is more than a privilege, it is an opportunity.

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