The Natron Healthcare Project brings sustainable healthcare to two Masai communities in the remote Lake Natron region of northern Tanzania.
Before we initiated the project in 2009, there was no reliable healthcare for many miles for the villages of Makat and Wosiwosi; if you could not walk for eight hours to the nearest government clinic, you had to get better – or die. This caused extreme hardship, in particular to women and small children.
We collaborate with established government and non-government healthcare services providing regular clinics, as well as crucial healthcare education to help local people understand their healthcare issues and choices.
Our goal is a grassroots, internally sustainable service led by the requirements of informed, pro-active communities.
Among the services we facilitate or provide are:
- An annual eye clinic
- School lunch programme for students at Makat Primary School
- De-worming for all children in Makat and Wosiwosi
- Anaemia awareness and prevention for pregnant women
- Traditional Birth Attendant training
- Health education workshops on topics like rehydration, hygiene, STD and AIDS prevention and treatment, the importance of immunizations, wound and burn care
- Clean water for students and teachers
- Fortnightly outreach clinic
- Training and support for regional healthcare staff
Founding the Natron Healthcare Project
While working on The Crimson Wing in Lake Natron, I became the medic to the local Masai community. The nearest clinic was a day’s walk away, and there was no guarantee that it was staffed or stocked. With my over-flowing first aid box, I offered an alternative to the “get better or die” reality that most villagers were forced to abide.
My first “patient” was a man who’d been injured in a knife fight. A deep gash from his ear to lip exposed the cheekbone beneath. Armed with that brilliant bush-medic’s bible, “Where There is No Doctor” I stitched him up. The next day, twenty people – mostly women and children – lined up outside camp waiting to see me.
Over the three years we lived at Natron I performed a number of miracles: I helped a blind boy see by facilitating at $15 trachoma surgery; I made a lame man walk by providing him with nine months of care and medication to cure his TB of the spine; I saved the life of a young mama and her baby by evacuating her when she developed pre-eclampsia.
This power of life and death appalled me: why should I be able to save the life of a child because I had a vehicle and communication, and the mother could not? I believe this inequality is immoral. The poor should have access to meaningful healthcare.
As I prepared to leave Natron, I could not bear abandoning the community of friends to their previous, harsh reality. I contacted my mother-in-law, Dr. Penny Aeberhard, a highly-respected family doctor in the UK who had also worked in rural Nepal and India. She came out to Natron, and after meeting with the community, assessing and scheming long into the night, we founded the Natron Healthcare Project.