The United Nations is particularly drawing attention to the financial impact that paying for healthcare may have on low income families and the future of their children. Tanzania, as a UN Member State, has agreed to try to achieve universal health coverage (UHC) by 2030, as part of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Back in Zombo, mothers with babies and children in tow form queues outside the health clinic, waiting to see the only doctor who works there. Some have come from miles away. This situation is not uncommon in Tanzania. The clinic in Zombo sees around 150-200 patients a day with many arriving out of clinic hours needing emergency care. According to one of the nurses, the biggest problem is that they only have the facilities to triage and dispense medication. They are not able to care for patients overnight.
Just around the corner, the local pharmacy caters for all five villages in the ward, often unable to stock the quantity and variety of medications needed by its customers. The only option left for them is to travel to the local town, Kilosa, which is both a timely and costly journey. According to survey conducted by Raleigh volunteers in Zombo, 55% of respondents’ weekly income was not enough to cover their basic living expenses such as food, education and healthcare. 32% said they were not able to save money suggesting that if a family member did fall ill, it would create substantial financial hardship for them in paying for their treatment and potentially losing a source of income if it is a sick parent.
For the lowest income families in Zombo, even relatively common and easily treatable diseases such as malaria, schistosomiasis and typhoid can have a large financial impact. Given that there is a river and marshlands in the village, used by many locals as their main water source, the prevalence of mosquito, water borne diseases are particularly high in the village. This reflects the wider problem in Tanzania that only around half the population have access to improved drinking water (WHO) and 45% of child mortality in the country can be attributed to preventable causes such as malaria and diarrhea diseases. Read more about our SWASH work here.
A local doctor suggested that one of their most important roles in a rural community is to educate people about preventative measures such as sleeping under treated mosquito nets and avoiding stagnant water. Indeed, according to the World Health Organisation, addressing prevention and general health promotion is the most pressing need for the nation.
Tanzania has made huge leaps in the last decade, reducing infant mortality by around 10% and drastically reducing the number of people dying from malaria from around 20,000 reported deaths in 2006 to around 6000 in 2016 (WHO). Furthermore, in 2015 the World Bank approved a $200 million credit to improve the quality of primary health care services in Tanzania with a focus on maternal and child health services. As for Zombo, since the addition of a mother and baby ward, the maternal and infant mortality rate is close to zero. World Vision has also been working with village leadership and is in the process of installing water pipes to distribute cleaner drinking water around the village.
Written by Sellene Clark, Livelihoods Team Leader, Raleigh Tanzania