On the road – Monday 28 Feb. through 2 March 2011

Note to all: It is Friday morning, March 4th. We had our meeting with ZACH yesterday,  Luke and Mary traveled east to Nyadire where they will be until the weekend. I am in Harare now with Elizabeth and will leave shortly for St Albert’s in the north. We are all fine. The ZACH meeting included several Methodists from the US who have been working in Zimbabwe for weeks or longer. The country is quiet except for spots of political activity. But just as actions in Wisconsin don’t threaten all, actions here do not indicate widespread problems or danger. We do not have internet connectivity at St Albert’s, so I will be out of touch until Tuesday when we return to Harare to attend the opening of Elinor Burkett’s film. So you may not here from me until then or later. Have had a very productive trip so far. What follows, I wrote last night about our activities Monday through Wednesday. Thanks for your good wishes and concern. Darrell

Luke, Mary, Elizabeth and I were on the road each day with our knowledgeable driver, Computer Muhoamba, by 8:00. We visited two mission hospitals on Monday, two on Tuesday and one more distant hospital on Wednesday, traveling more than 1,554 kms (963 mi). These trips would lay the groundwork for a series of container shipments of medical supplies by Brother’s Brother Foundation, represented in our group by Luke Hingson, in conjunction with Hospital Sisters Mission Outreach, represented by Mary Mahlie. I represented Better Healthcare for Africa, which had facilitated the connection of Brother’s Brother and Hospital Sisters with Dr Tarira and the Catholic Health Commission. BHA also had pledged support toward the cost of shipping one container of medical supplies to St. Albert’s Mission Hospital. The trip is also an important opportunity to gain a broader overview of the healthcare needs of Zimbabwe, to learn more about cancer care in the country, and to learn the future needs of St. Albert’s.

Monday: We visited Howard Hospital, a Salvation Army mission hospital north of Harare that is struggling to meet a growing number of patients coming there from Harare, and then we traveled to St. Albert’s. Howard treats about 4,500 patients per month, including 200-250 inpatients. An increasing number of patients are coming from Harare. A visiting female doctor from Canada was helping out. In 2010, frequent power outages forced the hospital generator to burn 4,500 liters of fuel, putting a significant strain on the operating budget. Patients included severely and mildly brain damaged people and children with cerebral palsy. I will be writing about St. Albert’s in coming days.

Tuesday, Computer maneuvered our truck through Harare’s heavy morning traffic and headed south 180 kms on the Mutare road to Mount St. Mary’s Mission Hospital. We passed several police check points but were stopped only occasionally. Upon our arrival, Mary noticed an elderly woman dressed in pink who had been sitting in shade under a tree, and who stood up and gently clapped her cupped hands in a gesture of gratitude for our coming.

The hospital’s needs included a new large autoclave to replace one they’d been using since 1982. Patient’s there included a child of about three years old with two badly burned feet. She had been swinging from a branch when she slipped and landed barefoot in a pile of discarded ashes that had many live coals. The most frequent conditions treated at the hospital are upper respiratory tract infections, HIV-related conditions and TB, nutritional deficiencies, injuries and burns, diarrhea, chronic conditions, malaria, eye diseases, dental conditions, and sexually transmitted infections. Their important needs included a distillery for making distilled water and oxygen concentrators. Currently they are purchasing distilled water in Harare, along with bottled oxygen.

Driving 190 kms to the northeast took us to St. Paul’s hospital, located in the wonderous balancing-rocks area of Zimbabwe. At this mission in 1977, seven missionaries were massacred during the War of Liberation. St. Paul’s, a referral hospital for five clinics, is doing good work but doctors are forced to perform surgery without surgical lamps – a bad transformer needs replacing in one, and new light bulbs are needed for the other. Currently, surgeries are done by overhead fluorescent lamps and flashlight. Their biggest health problems include HIV/AIDS, TB, and malaria, and their biggest problem is scarce resources to run the hospital.

Wednesday we took the road to Mosvingo to Driefontain (Muvonde) Mission Hospital, stopping first at three gas stations before finding one with fuel. Harare today is the site of an anti-sanctions event, and as we drove out of town, lorries full of people were being driven into town to attend the event. We arrived at the hospital shortly after noon. This hospital was founded in 1961 but began life before that as a reform school. The grounds also had a sanitarium. The amazing work being done here include eye surgeries to correct cataracts and glaucoma. They are also using telemedicine to diagnose malignancies, particularly cervical cancer, though treatment options are extremely limited, and have a nursing school with 108 students.  Major health problems treated at Muvonde are HIV-related conditions (severe pneumonias, TB), skin conditions, malnutrition, and surgical conditions, including urologic, gynecologic and obstetric.

Items needed by many of the hospitals include suture and surgical gowns, autoclaves, incubators, wheelchairs and crutches, gloves, dressings of all kinds and operating room lights, all equipment that can be supplied by Brother’s Brother and Hospital Sisters Mission Outreach. Surprisingly, many of these hospitals requested treadmills for their rehabilitation departments. If BHA can find three or four used or refurbished treadmills in good working order we can include them in one of the containers shipped by BBF/HSMO.

Hope all is well. See you next post…Darrell