The “Health and Nutrition” training course is organized by the DREAM Program of the Community of Sant’Egidio with the contribution of the Eight per thousand of the Italian Catholic Church. Over the course of 4 days, 23 community health workers of the DREAM centers in Tanzania (coming from Iringa, Arusha, Uwemba and Masanga) took part in the course, as well as 20 community operators from Iringa, Usokami and the district of Pawaga in the region of Iringa, one of the districts most affected by child malnutrition.
Malnutrition today is still one of the main factors contributing to child mortality in Tanzania. Of children under the age of five, 34.4% suffer from chronic malnutrition, a number that rises to 50% in the poorer and more rural areas. Acute malnutrition instead affects 4.5% of the population, about 2,600,000 people. Tanzania has recently made the fight against malnutrition one of the top priorities of its public health agenda.
The local authorities (the Regional Commissioner and the Regional Medical officer) present at the inauguration reminded everyone how, in the region of Iringa, more than 14,000 children suffer from malnutrition, of which 4700 from severe acute malnutrition.
Amongst its causes are the state of poverty in which the rural population resides and a diet based mainly on cereal and tubers, as there is lack of food rich in micro-nutrients and proteins. It is for this reason that, during the course, there was a chance to educate the population on a correct and varied diet, thus improving the local food intake.
With the help of Tanzanian nutritionists and experience in the field such as that of the Pope John XXIII Community, it was possible to provide practical advice and a series of useful recipes for children aged between 6 months to 2 years, a period in which they are most at risk of suffering from malnutrition.
Another topic covered was that of hygiene in the preparation and preservation of food, and the importance of access to clean drinking water, as an insufficient source leads to repeated diseases which may jeopardize the child’s growth.
A Kiswahili edition of the book “How’s your health?” and an attendance certificate was handed out at the end of the course to all the participants.
“Karibu DREAM Matteo” are the heartfelt words that welcomed Msgr. Matteo Zuppi, archbishop of Bologna, when on 20 January he visited the health center of the Community of Sant’Egidio in Iringa, Tanzania.
The warm welcome was mirrored by the great affection of Msgr. Zuppi, who was happy and eager to visit every single area and department of the Center. He was happily surprised to see the care given to each environment, great organization, the patient treatment and the professionalism of the operators who explained how the program works. Today, the DREAM program treats 2100 patients in Iringa, and since its beginning in 2009 assisted about 12,000 patients.
The bishop later visited the laboratory of molecular biology, observing the western-standard sophisticated machinery. He then met with the patients under treatment and greeted them saying: “Usually the rich keep the best things to themselves. On the other hand DREAM and the Community of Sant’Egidio, like a mother who wants only the best for her children, shared the best available in Europe. This center, apart from being beautiful, shows the love of the Community for its children in Africa. The operators are not only very good in what they do, but it shows that they care very much for you. We recalled the great work for Peace carried out by the Community of Sant’Egidio in Africa remembering Mozambique and Burundi. That which we see today is a different war, against AIDS. We are here to win this battle together”.
A large cake was served by Msgr. Zuppi with the help of a child and a DREAM activist. Towards the end of the day before a group photo, actually a family photo, the patients gifted a shirt with “Karibu DREAM Matteo” printed on. Welcome to DREAM Msgr. Matteo!
Due to the expansion of treatment programs for AIDS and Tuberculosis to country-level and the need to support government efforts to guarantee their quality and thus their success, the DREAM Program organized in Dar es Salaam a training course called “DREAM 2.0 – The global approach to the HIV patient: prevention, diagnosis and treatment of virological failure and drug resistance.”
The title and topic discussed drew much interest and attention among the health personnel currently involved in fighting the diseases. More than 30 specialists from various parts of Tanzania participated in the training course. The presence of international educators, the DREAM program’s reputation in the country and the delicate and current topic proposed contributed to an enthusiastic response from the participants.
The inauguration of the work activities was held at the School of Public Health of Dar es Salaam at the Muhimbili Hospital. The dean began the course highlighting the honor and pleasure that comes with hosting such an event.
The manager of the NACP laboratories reminded everyone how over the years DREAM has been a pioneer in the field, building molecular biology laboratories which allow monitoring patients under treatment and that today are a model to implement across the whole country.
The course was made available thanks to the support from the Catholic Church and the funds from the Eight per thousand, both of which have been supporting DREAM for years with notable success and impact.
World AIDS Day was recently celebrated on 1 December, but still poses many challenges: extending treatment programs to a national level, their sustainability, monitoring adherence to treatment so as to avoid development of resistance to drugs and the important role of all of the participants, whose actions affect the lives of millions of sick people. Training doctors undoubtedly plays an important role in winning this fight.
There is still much left to do but we have also come a long way thanks to the support of many. The Community of Sant’Egidio feels that it has to undertake the challenge posed by this epidemic, supporting the endeavors of the countries in which it is present, starting from the health personnel committed to fighting and treating AIDS and the other diseases linked to it.
At the end of the course, the Italian Ambassador to Tanzania, Dr. Roberto Mengoni, underlined the important role of Sant’Egidio both in Tanzania and Africa over the years for its presence and the work achieved in the struggle against the disease and for peace.
Many challenges await and DREAM is always more consolidating its role as a leader and forerunner to many big and important decisions that have changed the many realities of the countries in which it operates, alongside the sick and the health workers.
On February 23, a ceremony was held at Dar es Salaam, to inaugurate the delivery of humanitarian aid by the flagship boat, of the Italian Navy, Carabinieri. The ship has been used in the anti-piracy mission Atalanta, at the guide of the Euopean Union.
In the presence of Italian ambassador, Luigi Scotto – who during his time has visited the DREAM centers of Arusha and Iringa on several occasions – drugs for opportunistic infections, generic drugs, and medical supplies were donated; all intended for treatment of 3,700 patients in care the DREAM program of the Community of S. Egidio in Tanzania.
This donation is an important support for many sick people who do not have the financial means to buy drugs, which are often very expensive. Antiretroviral treatments are distributed free of charge to all people living with HIV, but HIV-positive people often contract other opportunistic infections that can seriously compromise their health, despite adhering to antiretroviral therapy.
Tanzania is a predominantly rural country, and therefore many of the patients of the DREAM center of Iringa and Arusha are from small villages. For most of them, the only economic resource is the local market of agricultural products grown in small plots. It is mostly the women who are dedicated to agriculture and sale. Many of DREAM patients are widows, because of AIDS, and support their entire families. Even the cost of transport to come to get treatment is a big financial burden for many, so the ability to receive all the drugs free of charge is an important aid in adherence to therapy.
(“Asante” means “Thank you” in Swahili )
DREAM 2.0’s “solar” installations are going well and in Tanzania the renewable energy reconversion of the DREAM centers and laboratories of the Community of Sant’Egidio have also begun.
At the DREAM center in Usa River, about 20km from Arusha in Tanzania, the installation of a new solar/hybrid energy system (provided with a storage system) has just been completed.
Our Tanzanian installers were quick and efficient, having in only 3 days positioned the photovoltaic panels, connected the inverters and batteries, and modified the existing switchboards so that all of the essential services of the laboratory and the DREAM health center were powered by solar energy.
It is a real bargain both economically and environmentally. We estimated a 70% decrease both in the use of the diesel generator and in the release of harmful emissions in the atmosphere.
Usa River’s “solar” couldn’t have come at a better time. Tanzania is going through a moment of crisis in the production of electricity. At the beginning of October, all of the hydroelectric plants in the country were closed due to the absence of water (http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-34491984).
Never before had such an event occurred. Climate change is evident…and unfortunately our DREAM center in Usa River has been severely affected by it. In October, the diesel generator suffered from constant blackouts, working nearly 200 hours over the whole month.
Karibu nishati ya jua…Usa River welcomes solar energy. It has arrived at the right time and we hope that it will soon reach the other DREAM centers in Tanzania.
The Benedictine mission of Uwemba in Tanzania is located at an altitude of 2000m in a mountainous landscape, beautiful but deeply scarred by the AIDS epidemic.
It is the region in Tanzania with the highest HIV prevalence, 14.8%, but reaches almost 16% among women.
The mission is well organized with farms, buildings, schools, a church, a bakery, and a dam that produces energy, including also a large health center.
Stories of great suffering and death caught the attention of the Benedictine nuns and monks. The painful cry of hundreds of sick, the cemetery that grows larger every day, made them reason and understand that they could wait no longer.
The idea of bringing DREAM to Uwemba came from Switzerland through a circle of friends starting from the Kusnacht Parish in Zurich, that know DREAM thanks to many trips to Africa and a long-term friendship with the Community of Sant’Egidio in Rome.
The proximity of the DREAM center in Iringa (a 4 hour car drive), the story of a few sick who were brought and were cured, and the friendship between the Benedictine Congregation and the Community are all further contributing to the on-going globalization of solidarity.
This month a DREAM mission and a group of friends from the Kusnacht Parish visited Uwemba and met the nuns and monks of the Mission.
The meeting has concretely allowed to program interventions, making operative decisions for the opening of a DREAM Center at the Health center shortly. A pleasant encounter with rich and lively testimonies of great friendship and great hope concluded the visit. The words, HOPE, JOY and GRATITUDE were often heard and have strengthened an alliance benevolently for the newly-found prospects and for life.
The long-term friendship made up of loyalty, sympathy, hope, and the awareness of the fact that Europe can still do a lot for Africa to change the life of many, next to DREAM’s matured experience over the years and the wish to overcome new challenges, all come together in a big mosaic, in the natural frame of the beautiful and beloved land of the mission of Uwemba.
Karibu DREAM. Asante DREAM