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"Singaiki". Mobile medical care for Maasai women and children.

The “Singaiki” project (a Maasai word that describes a young girl of marriageable age) was conducted in the SMA Moita Bwawani Mission, located in the underdeveloped countryside of Tanzania, about 25 kilometres from Arusha. The area in which the mission is located is a semi-arid steppe inhabited mainly by the Maasai people, who lead a nomadic life which leads to a lack of continuity in medical care for children and pregnant women. Moreover, the tribe is patriarchal, and the men frequently do not recognise women’s rights, such as the right to medical care. Difficult-to-access terrain, social conditions and lack of medical facilities contribute to a situation where many women and children lack access to basic healthcare, which has translated into high perinatal mortality rates among women and newborns.

This is why the project, which involved improving access to professional obstetrics support through the services of the Mobile Health Clinic and the Flying Medical Services, targeted this specific group. The local coordinator of the Mobile Health Clinic is one of the sisters of the Congregation of St. Joseph of Mombasa, which operates within the mission area. Her task is to collaborate with the Tanzanian Ministry of Health and mobilise donors for the mobile clinic, which serves its patients free of charge. The Flying Medical Service, a non-governmental organisation which brings medical services to difficult-to-access areas, is also free.

The project also aimed at encouraging women of reproductive age to seek medical care during pregnancy so as to reduce the risk of perinatal complications, improving the health of women and children, and raising awareness of health-conscious behaviour and female physiology.

Part of the project was addressed to the female students of the state secondary school in Kipok who will soon become mothers, with the aim of preparing them for pregnancy and maternity.

"Singaiki". Mobile medical care for Maasai women and children.

The project began on 20 July and ended on 31 December 2015, while the volunteer stayed in Tanzania between 23 October and 19 December 2015.

The project was initiated in response to the need for a midwife in the Mobile Health Clinic of the SMA Mission in Moita, Bwawani. The purpose of the midwife was to provide pregnant and postpartum women, newborns and children up to age five inhabiting the rural area in the vicinity of the town of Arusha with access to quality medical care.

The volunteer carried out professional consultations, obstetric examinations of pregnant and postpartum women and first examinations of neonates, and vaccinated children and provided them with vitamin supplements. Every meeting with a patient also had an educational dimension, as the volunteer interviewed patients about their conditions and discussed ways of improving them.

In addition to medical actions in the mobile and airborne medical services, the volunteer also conducted two seminars for 16 young Maasai women, Kipok school students, on the topics of adolescence, the woman’s physiological cycle, health-conscious behaviour and conscious maternity.

The project proceeds were used for purchasing medical instruments, in particular Pinard horns, obstetrics sets, blood pressure cuffs, scales, and so on, which were handed over to the Mobile Health Clinic at the completion of the project.

The project was completed with an educational initiative which included a film documenting the volunteer’s work.

The project activities contributed to achievement of a number of the Millennium Development Goals: 3 – to promote gender equality and empower women, 4 – to reduce child mortality, 5 – to improve maternal health, and 6 – to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.

"Singaiki". Mobile medical care for Maasai women and children.

All actions undertaken in the project have a common long-term outcome in terms of the improved health and quality of life of the local population. Beneficiaries received medical care and recommendations which will continue to yield health benefits throughout their lives.

1. It was observed that an increased number of women avail themselves of the services of the local volunteer midwife. According to statistics of the Mobile Health Clinic, the number of children under the age of five and pregnant women who received medical care during clinic hours increased by 27% compared to the period preceding project implementation. The patients for whom volunteers identified pregnancy complications received pharmacological help and the information they needed to complete their pregnancies safely. The risk of perinatal complications was reduced while the general health of women and children improved.

2. The awareness of health-conscious behaviour and female physiology increased among young Maasai women. The improvements in knowledge as measured in the oral questionnaire carried out among project beneficiaries were, however, lower than initially anticipated (an increase of 40% rather that 50%).

3. Access to professional obstetrics support through the Flying Medical Service was improved. According to statistics of the Flying Medical Service, the number of persons using the medical services provided by that entity over the relevant period increased by 10%. Through her work with the Flying Medical Service, the volunteer enabled access for pregnant women of the Tarangire region – to which the flights were made – to professional medical care.

4. The volunteer participated in 14 Mobile Health Clinic routes, in the course of which the clinic’s medical services benefited a total of 244 pregnant women and 1,087 children (through 16 specialised neonatal clinic routes).

As part of the educational initiative under the project, organisers produced 300 DVDs of a documentary titled “Singaiki and her midwife,” which documents the volunteer’s work and presents the issues of maternity care among the Maasai, as well as 300 document folders and 200 notepads promoting the project.