Yesterday a lorry carrying eighty-odd people to a football match overturned. Three were killed and a fair number were brought here. Wadi Moja (Ward One); which already has its fair share of problems, resembled a battlefield. There were sixty-odd patients, four nurses, me and one clean sheet. Hamna shida. This is Africa.
Waiting patiently in the corridor for admission were ten men, most of whom were bleeding from somewhere. All the usual chores – operation cases etc., plus relatives milling around, did not alter the admitting nurse’s usual polite greetings in any way. Each individual was greeted in the same manner -just as they would have been if there had been only one of them and the whole afternoon stretching ahead. “Habari za leo? “Nzuri.” Habari za Nyumbani? ” “Salama “. Even – honestly -“Habari za afya?” “Nzuri kidogo”. “Nzuri kidogo?” Now this answer is from a man with blood pouring from his chin and his leg in plaster from toe to groin! Each of the ten men got the same treatment. No hurry or panic on wadi moja.
After all had been admitted, some two to a bed, some on the floor of the corridor, and the afternoon shift had been given the report, the now off-duty nurses tied on their kangas and wandered off home. After all, one day is much like any other on wadi moja.
Glossary: Hamna shida -No problem. Habari za leo? -How are things? Habari za Nyumbani? -How are things at home? Habari za afya? -How are you feeling? Or how is your health? Nzuri -Good. Kidogo -small or a little.
(Jean Cooper, author of the above article is a VS0 volunteer working at Nyangao in Mtwara Region. VSO’s programme in Tanzania opened in 1961 and today around 110 volunteers are working in the country. Fourteen new volunteers will be going there in June followed by another 30 in September. Volunteers are involved in education, technical training, community development and agriculture as well as health. As a charity, VS0 is fortunate in receiving a large grant from the British Government. However, it still needs to raise over £4 million this year. One of the most enjoyable and rewarding ways of supporting VS0 is through sponsoring a volunteer. VS0 has various schemes, For example, if you contribute £15 per month you can share sponsorship of a volunteer, choose the region where your volunteer works and expect about two letters a year from the volunteer. Another scheme costs £300 per year but if you contribute £1,000 per year you will be able to choose a specific volunteer according to his/her skill, meet the volunteer (if possible), and receive letters, reports and photographs. Details from Anne Harrison or June Quayle, on 0181 780 7200 or write to them at VSO, 317 Putney Bridge Road, London SW13 2PN e-Mail XXX Editor)