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Call the Midwife is a charitable organisation that supports Maasai people in a group of rural villages in Tanzania. Our mission is to work in partnership with the villagers to enable everyone within the community to live with dignity, healthcare provision and self-sufficient, sustainable methods of income.

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Blog

An attitude of gratitude

Liz Moore

Although Britain prides itself on its National Health Service, it does come in for  a lot of criticism.  When I am in Tanzania, I cannot help but compare here with there and vice versa.

Recent figures given in the latest junior doctors strike state that England alone has 1000 junior (but none the less doctors fully qualified) doctors for every 100,000 residents.  In addition, there is a well structured family doctor service and many hospital consultants as well as half a million other workers, all trained in-house.  By contrast, Tanzania has no family doctor service and only 2 doctors for every 100,00 residents. People are seen in outpatient clinics only and there is no ambulance service. Nurses have to pay to train in basic nursing.

The NHS is envied for its 'free at the point of delivery' care.  Sadly very few services in Tanzania are free. All medicines for everyone have to be paid for. There's no means testing or age benefits.

Once while chatting with my Tanzanian friends, they confided that they had each stood over a hospital cot containing their precious child. They felt anxious when told that the medical notes and prescription are missing so the nurse doesn't know what to do. Amazingly, the equivalent of 50 pence passed in a hand shake seemed to reveal the whereabouts of the missing notes, prescription or doctors' orders. The group then asked me how I cope when being offered a bribe to care for a patient, find the correct medicines or their medical records. They were totally astonished when I replied quite firmly that I had never been asked for a bribe--ever--and furthermore, I don't know any health care professional who has ever been offered a bribe. As one, the inquisitive group held their breath and asked again, just to check that I had understood the question. Again, I repeated, never, nobody, ever in 40 years. They each elbowed the person next to them. Did you hear that? never, nobody, ever? Silence enveloped us. It helped to underline to me that we live in a very different world with very different values.

I visited the local hospital last year where 'our' nurse and midwife Rebecca is in charge of Paediatric ICU. She proudly showed me the painted sign. 'Morogoro Referral Hospital'. The 'referral' tag gives it status above other hospitals. I wish I had not known that. I could only wonder what the other hospitals are like.  I couldn't help compare it with the vet practice that my daughter took her dog to for an operation on its tail the week before my trip.  I say 'compare' but actually, there was no comparison. The vet practice was superior in so many ways. For a start, it didn't have old squash bottles filled with slimy water holding long-dead peace lilies on the half height walls between beds. The lack of screens around beds is chilling to me who appreciates privacy. Africans value openness over privacy. Pulling screens would lead people to wonder what you are trying to hide. Poor patients. From the ward door, I could see all of them, lying on rubber mattresses with no sheets, most had no nightwear, just a ragged tee shirt and a piece of coloured cloth from home. Human dignity is eroded even further when I am told that there's no pain relief available today. Maybe at the beginning of next month, there might be a delivery. What a heartbreaking sight it was and made worse by knowing that it's always like that. 

From the window of ICU I saw a man in a suit. He seemed important. Under his arm, he was holding a tray covered in theatre-green linen and talking on a mobile phone.  Then I saw him in the unit attending to an unconscious child lying on what looked like a butcher's block in full view of the public gaze. He was attempting to cut down into a vein to put up a drip. He was trying to save a dying child and yet I wanted to run in and ask him if he had considered washing his hands at any point. Then I realised, we had seen the only available sink which was in the nurses' office. It was completely broken. Smashed in three places and wasn't going to be mended any time soon. Poor doctor, attending to one of his potential 50,000 patients and doing his best for each of them. My thoughts of criticism soon evaporated in the sense of esteem that  I now held for this doctor.

We went to the surgical wards to see some people from the village. It seemed that no matter what the diagnosis, this was where you were admitted. I was most disturbed by the burns patients. I don't know how they didn't all have wound infections.  The open fires that the Maasai cook over result in so many people, young and old being treated for burns. Every patient that I saw made my flesh creep.          

I use the word 'treated' as if they have the quality of dressings that we would expect in England. In reality, they had plain gauze stuck over the open sore with zinc oxide tape. I just hoped I wouldn't be present when the dressing would come off. I couldn't bear to think that there isn't even clean water to help to soak it off gently.  

These scenes came back to my mind when I phoned Timothy last week to ask if everything was OK as I hadn't heard from him. He said quietly that they had been to hospital as their two year old had fallen into the open fire and into a pan of boiling hot porridge that his aunt was cooking. My heart froze. I thought of the delay in getting to hospital as he wasn't in 'our' village with access to the ambulance. I thought of the long queues that they would have to wait in without emergency care; there's not even an ice cube and no pain relief. Then I shuddered as I thought of the gauze fibres of the dressing sticking to the burned skin.

I contrasted the look of pride on Rebecca's face as she pointed to that sign 'Morogoro referral hospital'. She was so grateful to have it available to her people.  I contrasted it with complaints I heard this week about health services available in Britain. I have to pause and create a gap between those two attitudes which are poles apart. OK, we may have to wait sometimes to access one of the half a million employees who can help us but we are actually very very well off aren't we? Yes, we are very well off indeed!

New Year is a time for reflection

Liz Moore

 

What a wonderful year 2015 has proved to be. 

Isn't it amazing that in the year that the UK sent an astronaut to the international space station, that most of the villagers helped by us have never seen an aeroplane?

Call the Midwife Tanzania is very thankful for all donations received this year.  Having money in hand gives confidence that when a project is initiated,  it can be seen through to completion in good time. This lifts morale in the villages and brings hope to some poor people who would have had no hope of a better future. Very few of this group of villagers has ever seen an aeroplane and some shudder when Liz talks about it. Liz always remembers affectionately that  one older Maasai woman said, 'You came from London, you flew in the sky, you dropped down here to help us. Oh God is good to us !

The website went live in March and has proven to be a very important form of communication.  Call The Midwife Tanzania.com is easier to remember than an email address. It has been a joy to be in contact with people who are so genuinely interested in the work with these lovely Maasai people. To Liz all of the work feels like  'it's just what I do' and 'not rocket science' so it is amazing to hear positive comments such as, 'We are confident that every penny that we give goes straight to the people who need it and not to pay heavy overheads of buildings, vehicles and staff like big charities.' (Liz pays all of her own flights and accommodation expenses) 'It's great that you know all the recipients personally.'   People also say that 'knowing you personally makes us feel close to the people being helped.' 

For two years now Liz been working on a way of responding to a request for women to rent cows. It has taken a while to build in the the common principles of our other projects.

1.        Among these are sustainability i.e. Initial funding is lent and paid back over two years.   Sustainability ensures that more people can be helped as money is recycled back to the community.

2.     Benefit to the community without favouring any individual. This means that everyone who registers must be prepared to work hard to make the most of the initial investment. 

Sadly, pride and jealousy are two emotions lying just below the surface of many hearts. As everyone has the same entitlements to register for a project, this helps to prevent the sense of pride of being selected above anyone else. It also helps to prevent jealousy. There are absolutely no favourites and nobody who is already living above the poverty line may apply. Liz is not afraid of insisting on this. So far, so good. Everybody seems to be happy with how all of the projects are being run.

How does it work?                                                                              Liz came up with what the Africans call a Memorandum of Understanding for the cow project.

Together, it was agreed that this should be a project for women who normally are not allowed to own property. To be eligible, the women must have young children and must be willing to save profits in a village bank out of reach of their husbands and to pay their children's future secondary school fees. From their profits of the first two years they will pay back the cost of the cow and keep or sell any calves as they choose. When the time comes, they will have the dignity of sending their children to school and paying the fees themselves. There is a waiting list. As soon as enough 'rental payments' are received into the community fund, we can buy more cows to benefit other families. 

It was fun going to a huge cattle market with the aim of buying cows. (see our Facebook page for photos).                                                                          

Liz has been one of the ten thousand attendees several times but had only ever bought a coca cola and a Massai blanket for a young man. (He had come to help to deal with an intruder during the night and looked cold in his scant Maasai robes). As it is not culturally acceptable for women to buy and sell, Liz watched from a reasonable distance as the two church leaders negotiated cattle prices.  Also if traders saw white skin, the costs would soar. We bought cows that had calved last year and were in calf again. In total we bought 15 cows. About £30 per cow was paid in the costs of getting permits, paying tax and driving the cows home. Call the Midwife was able to absorb those costs thanks to generous donations so women pay back only the basic cost of the cow.  As news of the project spread round the village, a waiting list of eligible women has been formed.  

For Liz, the greatest achievement is that more than 75 children will go to  secondary school and the parents will have the dignity of having paid the costs. 

Women's Health and Safer Delivery Kits

Every year, Liz meets with everyone who is part of any project.  This is always a joyful time of hearing detailed reports of how so many have benefited from such small investments. Amidst this there was a heartbreaking moment when the Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs) or auxiliary midwives gave their reports. Within the astonishing good news of no deaths in childbirth for several years now, they reported that as they have only one set of clothes and as they don't want to get them spoiled, they take them off for each delivery. They say that being naked, because they don't wear undergarments,  makes them feel uncomfortable and vulnerable. Liz was shocked.  Of course Liz knew they don't have another set of clothes. She has been to their homes many times and has seen the empty piece of rope that serves as a wardrobe in most homes. But thinking it through is another step....Thankfully a friend had donated £50 to spend on midwifery so an email asked if it could be used for uniforms. That afternoon we went into town and bought wine coloured poly cotton to make simple shift dresses. These were made by the village tailor at a cost of £2.50 per dress. They were joyfully received.  Sometimes investment has to come before sustainability. The TBAs went on to tell me that they are totally committed to hand washing with soap and using gloves but they have failed to convince the mothers to be of the value of hygiene. It means the TBAs are paying to keep the women safe during delivery. In response, Call The Midwife Tanzania has introduced Safer Delivery Kits.

The kit will include

·Measures to aid hygiene such as clean water, hand washing bowl, soap and a hand towel. Disposable gloves.

·Safety for the baby with a sterile cord clamp and cutter, baby towel, nappies, baby clothes, hat and baby blanket.

·Dignity-enhancing plastic sheet, to cover the cow hide on the floor where the baby will be born, a rubbish bag and sanitary towels.

·Health enriching supplements to combat life threatening anaemia.                               

It is possible to sponsor a kit at the cost of £10. These have been popular Christmas gifts with a photo card of mother and baby and a certificate saying what the kit contains.Many agree with Call the Midwife Tanaznia's view that this makes a better gift than buying socks or chocolate for the sake of it. (more detail on Facebook page)

Cholera outbreak

While Liz was in Morogoro, there was a cholera outbreak which sadly has continued to spread throughout the year. Liz decided that she must increase the number of 'stations' where people can collect harvested rain water from our 5000L tanks. While most would baulk at using our garden water butts for a source of drinking water, this is so much cleaner than water collected from a lake 3 miles away. There has been great excitement and chatter as the workmen have moved in to implement two further water collection points. Collection from  all stations will be on the same day at the same time so that every family has its fair share of clean drinking water. When the tanks run dry, they can be refilled with clean water brought in by tankers.

School girls; avoiding forced early marriage

Last but not least, Call the Midwife Tanzania is paying girls' school fees to reduce the distressing incidence of early teenage forced marriage. Four mothers said that their daughters would most certainly be married already if we ad not provided school fees. In years to come, families enrolled on the cow project will have the means to pay the fees themselves. In the meantime Call the Midwife Tanzania is very grateful for all donations generously given to enables this investment in the lives of young women. Liz met with every parent and guardian during her last visit. All were so proud to say for the first time In many generations that they had a girl in school. Because the women have been earning money though our micro-finance projects, each mother has bought her daughter a solar lamp to aid night time study. Many will be starting their fourth year and probably final year in early January. Sadly by learning from experience, we have to ask each girl to take a pregnancy test. (Schools cannot support pregnant girls.) This year all of the tests were negative. We will then talk with the village leaders, students and parents about how to help another group of potential students.

Thank you for reading. Thank you for all of the interest shown and thank you for your generosity that is so gratefully received by these wonderful African people.

 

  

 

 

 

Landmarks and milestones

Liz Moore

It won't be long until the Christmas journeys to our relatives begin. Children will be asking 'are we nearly there yet?' As an adult I've sometimes asked the same question. The minutes and hours pass and so do the miles but if I don't notice the landmarks it feels as if I haven't gone very far.

I noticed a landmark recently on my journey with the Maasai. It came in an email from Rebecca our midwife. Normally she greets me lovingly in Swahili. 'Mamangu' my mother. She has called me that since she realised that she is one month older than my elder daughter. That was a landmark for her in our relationship. In the recent email she greeted me with 'Yeyo Takwenya'. That is a Maasai greeting to a woman and requires a particular response. It warmed my heart and stamped a landmark of comfortable intimacy. 'Iko' I return quietly.  I feel so privileged to be on this  journey. 

Today, I phoned Rebecca's husband Timothy. I love his joyful giggle when her realises it's me on the phone. Mama. Habari za siku ? His overflowing joy and love of life is perfectly matched by his straightforward no nonsense approach to practical matters. He knows exactly why I am calling today.  Ah the new group? To keep the analogy of being on a journey, my paraphrase of what he said is that they are a bit lost and looking for a starting place. This is a group of women who are not eligible for the cow project (because they don't know how to care for cows and / or do not have young children). There is no doubt that we will find something that encircles the principles of sustainability and of not encroaching on existing businesses. However being a nomadic tribe, it's not easy for this new group to have regular meetings as they live so far from each other and there is also a principle that we don't help individuals. Every project must be community based and every individual must 'put in the hours to see results' So the new group is still working out what they can do to provide for their families and we will see how we can keep it fair and make it sustainable. One thing I am sure of is that we will soon be on the road to a good solution.

Timothy pre empted my next question...the recently purchased cows. With confidence and in clear English he announces 'no cows have yet been died. All are there.' Wonderful news. As its the end of the dry season, this is even miraculous.

Timothy goes on to report that the building of the antenatal clinic combined with a small laboratory is almost finished. They started to build this because they feel that It is essential that people have diagnostic tests before they go to the pharmacist. I, personally, have seen people being given intravenous penicillin for sciatica and pregnant women being offered foetal-destroying antibiotic drugs for an upset tummy that would sort itself out in a few days. Hopefully by offering simple laboratory tests, we can end this lethal practice. One room now has windows which will protect the already purchased microscope from dust.  I am going to send some money from the 'sponsor a safer delivery kit donations' to fit windows in the antenatal room. It means we will have somewhere clean and safe to store the kits and women will be encouraged to attend clinics. Rebecca will no longer have to run the clinic in her home which will give Timothy and the boys a bit of space. 

So my next question to Timothy is about the rain water harvesting project. Timothy has sent me a detailed spreadsheet of costings. Inflation has taken a bite but we have a strong pound so get more shillings than last year. I suggest that the dry season must be coming to an end. 'Yes', he affirms.  'It is raining in town'. That is good to hear. I feel that we must get on with buying the guttering and tanks and so on. I hate to think of missing even a drop. I will send nearly £2000 in addition to what I have already given. It is so worth it.

Those wonderful people and especially their infants and frail elderly who are on the road to self destruction from drinking filthy water, will be able to turn off that road when they see the metaphorical signpost saying 'this way to clean drinking water; No entry to cholera, typhoid, bilharzia and other diarrhoeal disease that can be a killer in the under twos and the elderly'. There is now a choice. They can choose life. Rebecca tells me that those already collecting rain water from the existing tanks, bless me on every visit and are grateful for their better health. Villagers have said to me without prompting that in the last three years they are healthier with less diarrhoeal illness. This means spending less money on treatment, having more productive rather than sick days and therefore more money coming in to feed the household.

So it only remains for me to say a huge thank you to everyone who has come on the journey with us and contributed so generously to the road to health and well being. We are not nearly there yet but we have passed a significant milestone.

The rain dance...............

Liz Moore

I love having e mails from my Maasai friends. I settle down to read the latest one from my friend Timothy. ‘our challenge is drought due to lack of rain. This means cattle are being taken further away to graze and our tanks are nearly empty of rain water.' It’s amazing that there is the technology to allow him to tap out a message on a mobile phone in a remote African village and seconds later it arrives on my smart phone. And yet they don’t have the most basic human necessity..…water.  I am so glad that three years ago, CalltheMidwifeTanzania fundraising initiatives enabled us to erect our first rainwater harvesting system. This year we have started to extend the system to two more centres. Normally, while waiting for the rains, we can purchase clean water in tankers. This is cheaper and one would expect, a whole lot healthier than having dirty water brought in plastic jerry cans on motorbikes. It has been satisfying to see people in surrounding areas modelling the idea of erecting water tanks at their homes. Now some enterprising but horribly corrupt motorbike couriers have taken to hiring the water tankers, labelled 'clean water' and filling them with filthy water from the gravel pits, ready to pass off as drinking water. Their mean deception was discovered when a recent cholera outbreak was traced to this source. Fortunately Timothy is a good watchman and will check thoroughly before purchasing water. 

I feel comforted as I remember the words of Martha, who benefited from our micro finance initiatives. ‘Now I have a smart house that will provide shade from the sun and shelter from the rain, I have no fear of either.’ Our investment and her hard work enabled her to leave the falling down hovel that was all that she could afford to her new 'smart house' with a metal roof. It's good to see her sense of dignity renewed. Soon that 'smart roof' will become another rain water harvesting area for public use.

For Pastor Jacob, it's a happier story. Although once again, rising inflation has risen up to sting us, a stronger pound enables us to purchase more Tanzania shillings which soothes the sting somewhat.

We are so grateful for two generous donations received through the website. It puts the commandment of ‘bearing one another’s burdens’ into practice. I feel relieved while Jacob is ecstatic with joy as he looks in wonder at the two normal size tanks already purchased. He seems to be doing a rain dance in the knowledge that the guttering and pipes will be in place before the rains comes. I feel so privileged to know this amazing man. He has the heart of a good shepherd. He knows how to encourage and guide people across the stony obstacles of hard times. He and Timothy work seamlessly well together.  They have brotherly love and truly know how to bear their people’s burdens and protect them from unscrupulous merchants whose love of money is the only love they have ever known. 

 

An opportunity to perform a random act of human kindness.

Liz Moore

Just imagine if babies in your locality had to be delivered without the use of water because there are no sinks, no taps, no bathrooms or toilets. Imagine if the midwife had no uniform and only one set of clothes that they wear every day on every occasion. They have no wardrobe at home and if they did, it would be empty. Imagine that disposable gloves cost a week's wages and that the new baby's cord is tied with a bit of rag torn from the mother's dress. That is the shocking reality for hundreds of women every day. In the villages where Call the Midwife operates, it is amazing that so many women and babies survive because a handful of dedicated women, trained by us do all that they can to apply all that they have learned with loving devotion. Call the Midwife would like to ease their burden. We would like to supply safer delivery kits. Could you spare £10 to sponsor one kit? If you can, it is possible to donate directly through this web site. If you are a UK taxpayer, please follow the links to LINKS INTERNATIONAL who collect gift aid on our behalf. It involves completing a gift aid form if this is your first ever donation. But, it's worth the effort to bring a little bit of humanity into such inhumane conditions.   

Sponsor a baby bag

A donation of ten pounds will support an expectant mother to visit an ante natal clinic on four occasions and supply her with a safer delivery kit which will be kept clean and safe in a sturdy zip closed bag.

The clinic visits help with screening for conditions such as severe anaemia.  While this is common in rural Africa, it is potentially life threatening during labour. Anaemia is caused by malaria and dysentery. Simple treatments can be prescribed in good time.

The safer delivery kits will help to ensure a good outcome for mother, baby and importantly, for the person delivering the baby. This promotes  the well being of the whole family and wider community.

Call the Midwife Tanzania discovered that birth attendants had only one set of clothes. As they did not want to spoil them during a delivery, they took them off but hated the indignity of doing this. 

Your sponsorship donation will also help to keep a supply of simple-to-launder uniforms.

Call the Midwife Tanzania always aims to make projects sustainable. We also try to ensure that those benefiting value what they are receiving.  We will ask each mother to be to pay towards the safer delivery kit each time she visits the clinic. This contribution will be a fraction of the value of the whole kit but it will give the mother-to-be the dignity of having paid something. It will help to ensure that she values the contents and uses them for their intended purpose. Of course, we will be sensitive to those who truly cannot afford to pay anything.

The kit will include

  • Health enriching supplements to combat life threatening anaemia
  • Measures to aid hygiene such as clean water, a hand washing bowl, soap and a hand towel. Disposable gloves.
  • Dignity-enhancing plastic sheet to cover the cow hide on the floor where the woman will give birth, a rubbish bag, sanitary towels.
  • Safety for the baby with a sterile cord cutter and clamp, baby towel, nappies, baby clothes, hat and baby blanket.

PLEASE NOTE that with regret we cannot accept donations of baby clothes due to import restrictions and freight costs. We can purchase these goods cheaply in Tanzania. In turn this benefits their local economy. Thank you for your understanding. 

The Maasai village update August 2015

Liz Moore

Penny and I arrived at the Maasai village by car.  It was such a luxury compared to African buses.  Usually I am singing Elvis's song 'All shook up' after one of those journeys.

SCHOOL GIRLS .

Since arriving I have talked with most of the mothers of the girls being supported with fees for secondary school. They are so proud that their daughters are going to secondary school - something that has been so far out of reach til now. Two mothers said that their daughters would already be married against their wills if the school fees had not been offered. 

Most mothers said that the girls had asked for solar lamps so they could study in the evenings. As the mothers have no personal experience of school, they've said they do not know how the girls are performing academically. The truth is that although the girls are trying hard and actively participating in class, their marks are low. This is not uncommon in Tanzanian schools, where there are so many challenges to overcome. We have to remember that this is a long-term project that future, rather than present, generations will benefit from.

RENT-A-COW PROJECT

I have also met with potential members of the rent-a-cow project group. For centuries, cattle have always belonged to men, making women particularly vulnerable if their husband passes away or leaves. This is a scheme therefore open to women only, to give them a way to provide for themselves and their children. It is literally a foreign concept for a woman to own anything, but one that is being embraced. 

 To be eligible for membership, the women need to:

  1. Have young children and be prepared to save to pay secondary school fees in the future.
  2. Join and be an active member of a savings group and willing to learn to budget.
  3. Pay a regular sum equal to the cost of the cow into the savings group over two years. After that, the woman owns the cow and any calves.

After some discussion, we now have a group of 15 women. Timothy has also taken steps to protect the cattle from being taken away from them by men. The women will  be putting their savings into a savings bank so that it is out of reach from others. 

On Saturday, I will go to the cattle market to buy 15 cows. Please pray for me for the following:

  1. For safety. I have been to a market twice before but tend to stay away from the cattle selling. I have witnessed several times a cow suddenly bolting, followed by an ungainly Maasai warrior hanging on to the tail and having warm cow pats splattered down his arm by the uncooperative beast. I don't fancy that!
  2. For good prices and favour with the vendors.We have 15 women at present but when word gets round, this will grow. 
  3. For understanding from women who do not qualify as members. Timothy is very open and good at explaining things like criteria for joining a group but we need to be sensitive to those who are feeling left out.
  4. For good management of the savings group and 'rental' or hire purchase payments. I have already bought a ledger and pens for the group secretary and a good record book for each group member. Timothy and Jacob will oversee it and they are receiving £25 per month to help them if they have to turn down job opportunities. Timothy says 'Usually, nobody considers pastors in Africa so this is wonderful. Jacob has been dancing and singing for joy since he heard this news.'

Please pray for us and in particular for Saturday and then tying up all the ends on Sunday.

All my love and thanks as always, 

Liz x

 

Hello from Tanzania

Liz Moore

I arrived safe and well at Dar es Salaam on Tuesday evening and went by pre arranged taxi to the home of Penny in Dar es Salaam. Penny first came with me in 1997 to the refugee camps to teach about children's work. She loved Tanzania so much that she is now a resident.  She has cold water on tap and a good filter. We can take flasks of water into the bathroom to have awash.

At 4 am Wednesday morning we got up and drove out to see Agness who was the midwife in the refugee camp. Her nephew kindly came with us to show us the way over the sandy tracks. What a joy to see her again. She was recovering from malaria but still working 24/7 in the little clinic that she has built on to her home. Women come quite a distance to be treated by her. She has such a good way with them, I can see why they trust her.  She split open a few coconuts that grow on the tall Palm trees in her garden and poured us some fresh and delicious coconut milk.  We left when the clinic started to get busy and came home along the same bumpy road and short car ferry ride across the bay. We were able to go into the city and buy a SIM card and Internet bundle. I had also sent money by Western Union and was able to pick that up OK. It saved me carrying g so much money on the flights. 

Today Thursday has been a rest day. I have repacked and done some washing. We have also decided to stay in Morogoro town and do the 40  minute drive to the village each day rather than stay there. An incident last year involving an argument with a Massai man on drugs and his two prostitutes helped me to recognise that staying at the village guest house is not safe.

We have booked Mama Pierinis at £14 per night for an air conditioned room. I am so grateful to everyone who has generously contributed to the project. One of my principles is to pay all of my own costs so that all donations go directly to the projects.  It means that my personal budget can stretch to having better and safer communication.

Timothy will come to town so we can talk and plan without interruption. We can think hard about what we are trying to achieve and what the pitfalls might be. Once we are all agreed, it will be easy to communicate the plans to the women who will be involved in the projects.

I will do my best to keep you updated. Electricity is rationed so phone networks are affected when it is cut off. All for now.

Love and thanks

Liz

Packing for Tanzania

Liz Moore

I cannot say a big enough thank you to everyone who has journeyed with me. It's as if we have been packing together. I am taking more than the obvious things in my suitcase. Although I will board the plane alone, I will have confidence that I am in good company and will have the resources that are needed. Thanks to everyone 

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A new season arriving

Liz Moore

I love this time of year.  The clocks march forward to open up long, leisurely evenings to the wonder of all. Easter eggs wait wrapped up, shining in foil. Lambs leap and bleat in the fields nearby. Birdsong announces the new day, and tulips uncurl in the warmth of the sun. The turn of the season brings new life. It brings hope.  
 
Many of my friends are beaming at the imminent arrival of babies  - soon to be parents and grandparents. William and Kate will also be making choices as anticipant parents now - do they find out if it’s a girl or boy and throw a little gender-reveal party or wait til the baby is born (with all the media waiting outside for the first glimpse!)? Home delivery or hospital? Birthing pool or not? Doctor or midwife present? Epidural or gas and air? Neither? [Ouch!] Should mum come as well as the partner? Choices, choices. Wonderful choices.  
 
For beautiful Naserian, a young Maasai woman I met in Tanzania, home birth is the option. She lies flat on her back with no pain relief. Women from the village pull a cord round her abdomen or sit on her to help her labour. The bleat of the goats at the foot of the cow hide that separates her from the mud floor is a comforting distraction.  
 
Naserian’s Maasai name means ‘peaceful one’. She’s not feeling it now. Her husband left two months ago and he will return in about a year. Childbirth is a woman’s work in Maasai culture. Instead, the many wives learn to live in community and will gather round as soon as the baby arrives.  
 
As Naserian lies there, she thinks of her two teenage friends who were newly married, the second and third wives of their respective husbands. They were so hopeful as their contractions started. Pregnancy shows the favour of her husband, and represents the riches she will bring him as they grow old together. This joy ebbed away quickly as haemorrhage and infection robbed them of their babies, and their lives.  They didn’t make it. Just two of the 800 women a day who die in pregnancy and childbirth in the developing world. The causes are preventable if only women knew how.  
 
All they needed was soap and water. If they had seen a qualified midwife like Rebecca or a trained traditional birth attendant, they would have received care from women who would have washed their hands. That’s all it takes to save a life here. It’s so simple. 
 
Fortunately for Naserian, her mother arrived in time to help her. Her mum had heard of Rebecca and her midwifery team although they were in a different village. She phoned and Rebecca sped towards them on her well-equipped motorbike. She arrived, washed her hands in clean water and soap that she had brought with her. She put her hands into ghostly looking gloves. "Oohh", the women gasped. This is science! 

Within an hour, the cry they had waited for filled the air. A girl, a beautiful girl. Safe and healthy.  

Naserian is thrilled. She had longed for a girl. She will protect her with all her strength from any form of harm, including the tradition of female mutilation which is still prevalent. Never will she allow it. Never! There's new life for now, and hope for a different future for this baby girl. Who knows, she might lead the way for all Maasai women in Tanzania... Wouldn't that be wonderful?

Liz x

Dramatically reducing deaths in childbirth

Liz Moore

When I first started working in Tanzania, the Maasai women asked me to teach them about how to prevent their babies from dying early in their little lives. 

To start, we gathered a group of women together in the village. I asked the women if they had ever known anyone who had died in childbirth. Their animated response made me realise that death in childbirth was common place. I asked who the women were who had been affected. They pointed out many friends, relatives and neighbours who were in the room. I then asked where the women lived. Again, many fingers pointed all around the village, It was liking asking people in England if they had ever had a cold!  Official local figures showed 18 deaths in only nine months that year. Co-incidentally 18 children under age 2 had also died in the same time span. I decided this curse on the community had to be wiped out. 

I asked if there were any trained Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs) in the community. These are the women who attend births. In the villages, though, the women who attended births at that point had no other qualification other than the fact that their mothers did the same job and passed it on.  I decided that they would the group that I could start to work with.

It was then that Rebecca said she was willing to train as a midwife, with the moral support of her husband Timothy. Now, there are 10 traditional birth attendants in the village and the death rate has been reduced to almost zero - quite a transformation! 

Thank you to all of the supporters of our work who help us to make a huge difference with a small amount of money. Your generosity continues to transform and save lives. 

Keep following this blog for more information on what is happening at Call the Midwife Tanzania. 

Liz x