Albinos, water and election violence
A young man called Joseph came in to the hospital last week, with bowel obstruction and perforation. Winani opened him up and repaired the damage, but within days the wound was oozing faeces and a big hole that Winani had left in his abdomen was gushing frank pus. So after 2 days and some cajoling from me, Winani agreed to take him back to theatre. Leo and Winani did the operation,finding many adhesions, and an abdomen full of pus and faeces. In an operating theatre with no suction, trying to clean up the mess was no mean feat, and took hours. To try to increase his chances of surviving the operation, the staff had him only minimally sedated during the procedure. Joseph is 20 years old and staunchly committed to his political party, Chadema. On ward round yesterday he asked me to marry him, looking at me with hope and lust in his beautiful brown eyes, with faeces and pus oozing out through the massive wound in his stomach, running over his genitals and down his legs. I was overwhelmed, and lost for words. “Hapana, Joseph,” I said softly, holding his hand, “I can’t.”
Jared and Leo arrived here the weekend before Didee, Joe, Leanne and Jane left. Didee and Jane both came down with malaria a few days before they were due to leave, and on Leo’s first night here, Leo dealt with his first serious malaria case – Didee. She was delirious with fever and demanding more blankets even though her skin was scorching. We called Dr Winani and he and one of his medical assistants Dominique came late that night to start an intravenous quinine infusion and fluids. It was all quite scary, and we had no power that night either so all the medical treatment was carried out by candlelight. Luckily Didee was much better in the morning, although both her and Jane were still very weak for a few days and had to give up their planned few days in Zanzibar.
There was an election in Tarime a couple of weeks ago. The 2 opposing parties – CCM, who have been in power for many years; and Chadema, the opposition – have been campaigning crazily for the past couple of months. CCM especially has been roaming all over the Tarime district with their loudspeakers blaring, giving out free clothes – T-shirts, hats and kangas – to the people, playing music, and even giving them money to try to bribe the community to vote for them. There have been occasions where we had a community visit arranged, and turn up only to find that CCM have already taken over the whole community and our arrival is hardly even noticed. We would then have to either wait for them to finish or come back later. So, election day was interesting – Jared and Leo’s first day in Tarime. We woke to the sound of tear gas explosions and machine-gun fire. Standing on our front porch that morning Leo watched three people running away from a man wielding a machete. We were advised that we shouldn’t leave the house. However, boredom got the better of us and we drove over to the hospital. While Jared and I were cleaning up the storeroom, the sound of tear gas bombs got closer and closer and then all of a sudden the hospital was swarmed with people, and the staff locked the doors. Leo treated a young boy who had been thrown backwards by a bomb and was suffering the effects of tear gas– during treatment Leo himself felt the stinging in his eyes and burning throat typical of tear gas.
Jared and I have starting to research the water project – we are proposing to put groundwater wells into 5 rural communities that have major problems with clean water. When Paul Statham arrives next month he will take over and continue this project. I have learned a surprising amount in the past week about groundwater and the process of digging wells – it’s amazing the knowledge you accumulate here that you would never expect.
Jared has also been doing research into albinos –albino killing for body parts occurs widely in Tanzania, and more recently in the north-west region around Lake Victoria. An albino was killed in a town called Mwanza which we are going to tomorrow, and another killing occurred about 3 months ago only 10km from here, only to name a few. Jared and I met a young albino girl today and spoke with her parents. They did not understand why she had red, peeling skin and we explained to them the importance of covering her skin and keeping her out of the sun, and gave her a hat to wear
21 albinos killed in a single year out of a total of 300,000, which strikes me as being an awful lot. Other reports(below) give a figure of 8,000 registered albinos from a possible total of 150,000, others say 270,000 and some suggest the number of murders may be as high as 50. It is something we may be able to have a direct effect on and are hoping to do some more research.
Lisa Searle and Jared Irwin