Tanzania, located in Eastern Africa bordering Kenya, Mozambique and the Indian Ocean, is home to 36 million people with close to 85% living in rural areas. The country has one of the highest infant-mortality rates in the world (109 in 1000 births) and life expectancy stands at 44 years. The village of Ipuli is located in the region of Singida, which has a population of 950,000. Located in the heart of the country, the village has rich earth, an unworkable school, and no doctor. Tanzania has only one physician for every 20,511 people, and women in labor must travel an average of 60 kilometers through rough terrain to reach the nearest clinic. As a result many die. The community needed a medical center to serve the entire population of Ipuli while focusing on the health needs of women of reproductive age and children under the age of five.
The “Rural Center of Excellence” will include the Mother-Child Medical Center, a health center providing care to local mothers and their children which will also have equipment linking the center to other health centers all over the world. This would make it the first rural health telecenter in Africa.
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The need and idea of a health center originated from residents and community leaders in Ipuli village almost a year ago. The closest hospital for residents is about 10 kilometers away. Women and children are often transported on bicycles and wheelbarrows and travel through rough terrain that includes a river stream to get to that hospital—many, especially women with complicated pregnancies, do not make it.
It is composed of two elements: a maternity ward and a clinic for regular care to the mother-child population. Also included in the MCMC master plan: a staff dormitory for visiting healthcare providers and innovative spaces for public education and interaction.
Funds were raised by local NGOs and the project manager Neema Mgana, founder of the African Regional Youth Initiative (ARYI). The community has also donated 10 acres of land and ARYI colleagues are going to Ipuli to complete a health needs assessment. The center may also be linked to the health training program of the Clinton HIV/AIDS Initiative - Mkapa Foundation.
The second element within the “Rural Center of Excellence” will be a joint primary and secondary school for children and young people, and it would be built next to the health center. The school will incorporate formal education and “non-traditional” education that provide the space and equipment to encourage technological innovation. The children accepted to school will be those whose parents/caregivers are unable to pay for school fees for whatever reason, children whose education has been disrupted, etc. Students will be taught skills that can be applied locally. In the future it is hoped to link students to people and institutes doing similar projects and thus open the door for future learning and job opportunities.