64% of the population live in rural areas where MAF serves (credit: Svein Robert Solberg)
As MAF celebrates 60 years of service in Tanzania this month, we revisit MAF’s remote medical outreaches. Since 1985, MAF has been partnering with hospitals and flying medical professionals to isolated communities who have little access to basic healthcare. For nearly 40 years, MAF has enabled medics to treat thousands of women and children, saving untold lives
With only one doctor for every 20,000 patients in the country, Tanzania is a long way off from meeting the World Health Organisation’s recommended ratio of 1:8000.
According to the World Bank, 64% of Tanzania’s population live in rural areas, which means poor infrastructure, limited access to healthcare and bad roads, which take many hours or even days to navigate.
During Tanzania’s two rainy seasons – March to May and October to December – dirt tracks can become impassable leaving some villages cut off for months.
Pilot Peter Griffin flies a Haydom medical team to Gorimba (credit: Jacqueline Mwende)
Isolation from lifesaving healthcare kills. Before MAF partnered with Haydom Lutheran Hospital, Kilimatinde Hospital and Same Hospital, this was sadly the case for Tanzania’s remotest people.
With every MAF medical outreach, more and more children are prevented from contracting killer diseases such as TB, pneumonia, polio, measles, diarrhoea and hepatitis.
MAF enables medics to administer lifesaving vaccines to isolated children (credit: Jacqueline Mwende)
Equipped with two Cessna 206 planes and two pilots, MAF Tanzania plays its part every month by enabling medical professionals to treat hundreds of women and children in Tanzania’s hard-to-reach communities including the renowned Maasai tribe.
MAF accesses remote pastoralist communities
Once a month on a Monday, MAF sets off from Arusha to pick up a medical team from Haydom Lutheran Hospital in Manyara, eastern Tanzania.
MAF then flies the team – and essential medical supplies – to several remote areas in the north, conducting medical outreaches before returning on the Friday.
Checks on pregnant women are all part of the service (credit: Jacqueline Mwende)
A woman in Endanyawish gets her blood pressure checked (credit: Svend Løbner)
This five-day monthly mobile medical clinic offers a range of services to pastoralist communities including check-ups for pregnant women and babies, eye tests for children, post-natal care, vaccinations, malaria prevention, free vitamins and folic acid supplements. Advice is also provided about nutrition, hygiene, breast feeding and family planning.
South Maasai Outreach – babies are weighed to monitor their development (Päivi Griffin)
Frequent flyer Nurse Mansweta Augustino has been part of Haydom Lutheran Hospital’s medical outreach team for nearly 30 years. She regularly flies to the remote villages of Buger, Endanyawish, Matala, Gorimba and Dumanga, which are 20 miles or more from any healthcare facilities.
Nurse Augustino (R) has been doing medical outreaches for nearly 30 years (credit: Jacqueline Mwende)
In the absence of MAF, some people travel precariously on poor roads or dirt tracks in an attempt to access very distant healthcare, which is out of reach physically and financially for most, says Nurse Augustino:
‘The work of MAF is great. It’s through MAF that we can access these remote villages and provide medical services to people living in places where there are no medical facilities or medical professionals.
‘Flights are approximately fifteen minutes from Haydom Hospital and in between villages, compared to four hours or more of road travel.
‘With MAF’s help, we deliver medical care and mosquito nets to many mothers in remote villages. Thanks MAF for all the years you have supported us.’
Nurse Mansweta Augustino, Haydom Lutheran Hospital
The sound of the plane signals that healthcare has arrived, prompting hundreds of people from surrounding villages to make their way towards the plane to access much needed medical help.
Kilimatinde Medical Outreach – hundreds of patients in Chidudu want to be seen (credit: Raymond Kasoga)
Some women who have further to come have already started their long journey. Eslar for example is desperate to get her five-month old son vaccinated:
‘I started my journey at 7am and I got here at noon. Please see my child.’
Other women are in even worse circumstances. Nurse Augustino recalls one woman who had complications during childbirth, which prompted a lifesaving medevac:
‘During a clinic in Matala, a woman was giving birth but complications arose. The pilot immediately loaded her onto the MAF aircraft and within a few minutes, she was evacuated to Haydom Lutheran Hospital where she received more assistance.’
A typical monthly Haydom Lutheran Hospital medical outreach can treat around 1,500 women and children.
For 60 years in Tanzania, MAF planes have been a sign of hope and assurance (credit: Raymond Kasoga)
MAF is a sign of hope and assurance
In partnership with MAF, staff from Kilimatinde Hospital in central Tanzania run their monthly medical outreaches to remote areas like Dabia, Mahaka and Chidudu.
Without MAF, it would take a whole day for patients to walk in the scorching sun to Kilimatinde Hospital to access medical help.
The team – comprising of three doctors and three nurses – administer a range of lifesaving vaccines.
Kilimatinde Hospital Outreach – a women receives a vaccine (credit: Jarkko Korhonen)
Expectant mothers are given folic acid to aid foetal development, and anti-malarial drugs to protect them and their unborn child from malaria – a devastating disease.
Babies are checked and weighed.
Typically, around 300 patients are assessed and treated during a Kilimatinde Hospital medical outreach.
A MAF plane gives hope and assurance to isolated communities. It signifies that help has come says pilot Peter Griffin:
‘MAF’s impact is twofold because we fly in medical teams to care for women and children as well as evangelists to meet the spiritual needs of the people. It’s very satisfying to know that we can help people in both ways.’
Vaccines would spoil without MAF
MAF enables the South Maasai medical outreach team from Same Hospital to access the remote village of Lesirwai near the Kenyan border.
The nearest hospital for this community is around a two-and-a-half hour drive away, but during the rainy season, people are cut off by the Ruvu River.
Without MAF, Lesirwai is impassable for six months of the year.
MAF flights enable vaccines to keep cool for short periods of time (Svend Løbner)
Like most of rural Tanzania, there is no consistent electricity or stable infrastructure to power a fridge. Lifesaving vaccines would spoil during hours of bumpy overland travel in 38-degree heat.
With MAF, it only takes ten minutes to fly from Same Hospital to Lesirwai.
On board MAF’s swift, smooth flights, vaccines are chilled in special containers at the right temperature to maintain their efficacy right up until they are administered by health professionals.
Stewart Ayling (R) & Dave Fyock (L) at MAF Tanzania’s 60th celebration (credit: Päivi Griffin)
MAF Tanzania’s Country Director Stewart Ayling says the success of these outreaches is largely down to partnership:
‘One of the joys of serving with MAF is to see the partnerships that we have built – with hospitals and churches – in action. We each bring different gifts and abilities, but it’s only by serving together that we can bring help, hope, and healing to these communities.’
MAF International CEO Dave Fyock concludes the celebrations:
‘For us, celebrating 60 years of service in Tanzania means that MAF has faithfully been serving generations, but the topographical challenges of mountains, deserts, jungles and swamps continue to keep rural areas separated from developing infrastructure.’
Dave Fyock, CEO of MAF International
For 60 years, MAF has overcome Tanzania’s challenging terrain (Svein Robert Solberg)
Juliana from Mahaka Village
‘Before MAF brought the clinic to Mahaka Village, we used to travel many miles to Majili to seek medical services. Women in labour face a lot of challenges and most of them deliver their babies on the road due to the long distance to hospital. Many women risk stillbirth because of lack of medical attention. Because of MAF, we have experienced immense change. This clinic makes it easy for us to seek medical attention.’
Benson from Soweto Village
‘I accompanied my pregnant wife Martha so that we could seek medical services, have all the tests and get advice from the doctors. It’s more challenging if someone falls ill at night or a pregnant woman goes into labour. We travelled for two hours by bicycle to get here. I appeal to the government to build a hospital in Soweto Village so that our people can seek medical services closer home.’
Abi from Msisi Village
‘We walked for two-and-a-half hours to get to the mobile clinic. Without it we would spend a lot of money travelling by motorbike to get to the hospital in Majili. During the rainy season the fare hikes and it becomes very hard to get the funds. Pregnant women face a lot of challenges when they are due. Long distances to the hospital result in most women delivering at home with the help of midwives. We need a hospital.’
Miriam from Mahaka Village
‘I’m happy to know my child’s health is progressing well. She has been weighed and her weight is 8.9kg – a huge difference from last month when she was only 7.4 kg. We experience a lot of challenges especially during the rainy season when roads are impassable and the fare to hospital is very high. Many people have lost their lives on the way to hospital, which is too far away. Everyone needs medical services.’
Christina from Arusha
‘MAF has supported us in setting up these mobile clinics for children closer to home. Before this, we had to travel many miles and spend a lot of money to get to town to access the main hospital. Our children got tired.’
Anon from Msisi Village
‘MAF’s clinic is a huge help. We come with our families to access medical services. Before the clinics, we had to travel 3 to 4 hours to the main hospital in Majili. If someone is very ill, their chance of surviving long hours on the road is minimal. We would like a hospital here so that our people can access help any time they are in need.’
Ezeda from Mahaka Village
‘I’m here to attend the clinic with my children. MAF helps us by bringing free medical services. Our children get vaccinated, pregnant mothers and anyone who is ill get checked. Without MAF, we have to travel 4 to 5 hours to get to the main hospital in Majili.’
Lomayani from Ngarurumutonyi
‘MAF is a blessing to us. They bring the clinics closer to home so that we don’t have to walk for miles to access medical services. We pray for MAF as they continue to support us.’