We live in Mwanza, Tanzania, serving with Emmanuel International helping local churches in physical and spiritual ministry.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Giving Life: The Clinic on Kome Island

Rickety wooden shacks, rickety wooden boats, a mountain of bright red coke bottle crates and a depth of lush green trees. This was the sight that met that our eyes as our boat came slowly to shore. We arrived at Kome Island, the second-largest Tanzanian island in Lake Victoria, with a surprising population of around 27 000 people. There are three main tribes on this island, the Wasukuma, Wajaluo and Wazinza peoples, but Swahili (thankfully for us) is the common language!
 

Kome Island, Lake Victoria
 
We were visiting the island with Dr Bernard Makori, a member of Mwanza International Community Church, a doctor with a huge vision to help the people of this and other islands. He practices medicine in the city of Mwanza, but also on his own initiative and with his own money, he travels to these seemingly forgotten and neglected islands, setting up clinics and organizing mobile clinics to travel to the more remote and difficult places. The needs in these islands are great. The islands can be hard to get to (as our own journey proved... see here!), no one from the city wants to live here and they are the lowest priority for government help of basic things like water, healthcare and education. We were also travelling with Naha, a social worker who lectures in Mwanza and shares Dr Bernard’s vision to help meet the many needs on these islands where there are currently no social workers.
In 2012, Dr Bernard set up a clinic on Kome Island, which as a larger, more populated and slightly more developed island, works well as a base from which to operate mobile clinics on this island and to other smaller ones. He has set up the clinic with two doctors and five nurses who work there on a rotational basis. When we arrived, the nurses were away, running a week’s mobile clinic. They travel to stay up to a week in different villages on the islands and are able to get to 4-6 villages every month this way. 
The Kome Island Clinic

Dr Isaac, a cheerful, smiling man full of laughter, met us as we came ashore. He arranged our accommodation and meals for us and over the course of our time on the island usually appeared with a luscious avocado for us to eat! He was always busy, seeing us in between labour pains of a woman giving birth, early in the morning coming from the clinic and late at night after coming from the clinic. He was usually hungry and polished off our meals for us! But what a great servant of God!
A big health problem on the islands is due to unsafe water and poor sanitation. Cases of amoebiasis, worms, dysentery etc. are many. Another huge problem is HIV AIDS. The spread is rampant here; Dr Isaac said that around 33% of the population is infected. That is one in every three people! Fishermen earn a great deal from their catch and we’re told a good number spend that money quickly on local women and drink. We saw the sad truth for ourselves where we stayed at the shore guesthouse/bar. Other common diseases are malaria and typhoid and with people first looking to witchdoctors for cures, the sick are often very late to arrive at the clinic and suffering from advanced cases which can be fatal. There is also a very comparatively low survival rate in labour for both mother and child. The doctors talked with us about the problems they face and they have a huge and infectious vision to combat them. They want to offer much more education, as the lack of knowledge is a root problem. They want to see teaching on sanitation and healthy living increasingly spread through the clinics and schools. They want to do more sex education and teaching on HIV AIDS and also family planning. In particular they have a desire to start a ministry to the barmaids, reaching out to these women of whom many are involved somehow or trapped in prostitution. How amazing it would be to see these places of drunkenness and prostitution, so full of pain and shame, be transformed by the love and forgiveness of Christ!  Also, by increasing the number and frequency of the mobile clinics, they hope to be more available (more quickly) to remote patients and women giving birth.
They are not equipped to do operations and have no x-ray or other specialised equipment and also there is no ambulance for either water or land. They talked about the struggles they face trying to immobilise patients with broken bones when the only transport is a motorbike and dealing with emergency cases when there is no way out. But they just get on with doing the best they can!
 
Just talking to these two doctors is incredibly inspiring. They work with the very little they have, seriously lacking in resources and facilities, but making up for it in faith and effort. They do everything they can with what they have and are trusting and planning for much, much more! We share with them a desire to see people’s lives changed and transformed and we would be thrilled if we could work alongside. Over the next three months our plan is to visit many different villages both on the islands and the mainland, talking with people, listening to their stories about their work and the challenges they face. From there we will talk and pray about what our role here will be! This is just the beginning! While on Kome Island we were also able to talk to two local church pastors and also a women’s group… but their stories will have to wait for another blog!
So we are so encouraged to see these doctors reaching out sacrificially in a practical and skilled way to address health issues as they take with them the Giver of Life, the Master Healer, who offers a way of life that is LIFE!

Naha, Rachel, Amisadai, Dr Isaac, Dr Bernard and Louisa outside the clinic



 

2 comments:

  1. Your adventures never cease to amaze me, Rachel. And your girls are such an integral part of your work. We have 3 boys from Watoto, Uganda staying with us today, ages 10, 11, 12.....so full of life and promise. Africa doesn't seem so very far away!
    Blessings, Luella

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    1. Enjoy having the boys :) That's great! We are looking forward to getting across the lake to Uganda! Thank you! Rachel

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