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|Building a Health Service among the Maasai People at Loolera in Tanzania|
Loolera: Building a Health Serviceo:
To begin our initial health survey back in 1984, we visited each boma to acquaint ourselves with the peoples felt needs, their expectations and the general health picture. The biggest problem expressed was getting medicine for cattle,sheep and goats. The last time a weekly dip had been held was eight months earlier.Nobody could afford the transport to the nearest town to buy the medicine.
That was their felt need. Obviously, we had to find a way of addressing that if we were to have any credibility. At the same time we observed that we had not met a single child under five who had completed their vaccinations. Barely half a dozen children among them all had been registered at a Clinic.
It was not very long before we were able to get a Mother &Child Welfare Clinic under way, and training for Traditional Birth Attendants, with whom we worked very closely. An anti- polio campaign followed. We also found TB to be a big problem in Loolera, so we started a case-finding programme, with treatment and follow-up. We had meetings with the elders to find ways of eradicating yet another outbreak of relapsing fever. The issue of pit latrines was also on that agenda!
We became very active with the Village Water Committee. After some time the Dutch agency CEBEMO sent a water engineer to advise on the protection of the springs. We were also involved in health education in the Primary School. This became more important as the problem of HIV and AIDS became widespread in the world. The young people became very interested in role play around this deadly health threat. With the constant problem of drought and diminishing pasturelands, it was not too long before the Maasai began to raise questions about the possibility of diversifying their livelihood through agriculture. This would be a major cultural step for them, but they wanted to take a serious look at this.
As Sister Lelia set off on home leave in 1995, the people reminded her what we want you to bring back is a tractor! With the help of her generous friends she raised the funds not only for a tractor but a trailer too. Soon, there was no family without a shamba or field for planting. Ploughed land in village border areas also proved to be a protection for their rightful pasturelands which are often encroached upon.
A severe hunger in 1995 led to the communal purchase of a 7-ton radio- equipped truck and a store where maize could be stored against future problems of food supply. We have seen much development at Loolera, and will be sad to leave. For the MMMs who served at Loolera over the years, whenever they see the sun setting behind the mountains, they will think of the cattle passing outside and hear again the bells tinkling around their necks, and remember those treasured years among the Maasai.