In a poor land like Tanzania, where few have vehicles and public transportation is limited and cumbersome, local availability of healthcare is key. People can only walk so far, especially if when sick, hurt or about to give birth.
Our church partner operates 24 dispensaries that are like satellites around the three Diocese hospitals. From the first investigatory trip in 2001, we have realized the importance of these clinics, especially in the more remote areas where there often is no alternative. We also realized that all these clinics were under severe economic pressure. They usually get little or no support from the government, and the patient population and even the churches they are linked to are too poor to provide much support.
Adopt a Dispensary was our first program in cooperation with the Nebraska Synod of the Evan. Lutheran Church in America. This program was created for churches and individuals who wanted to assist Tanzania in a very basic way. We decided that rather than provide direct monetary support we would provide the medicines that these dispensaries (known as Zahanatis in Swahili) need. This allows the dispensary to use its income to pay salaries and make improvements rather than to buy medicine. Each clinic is able to prioritize and select the medicines they specifically need up, to a certain dollar limit.
This year we are providing medicines to 15 clinics. Support has continued to increase as word has gotten out or visitors have encountered the benefits of this program when they visit one of our dispensaries. Most support is from Nebraska but we have received aid from as far away as Delaware and New Hampshire. I used to do every program task myself, but now have enlisted some assistance at the hospitals. It still is a good day when you hit the road with a truck load of medicines and deliver it to places you know it really is needed.
We are encouraging and facilitating greater cooperation between the church zahanatis and the government .This cooperation can result in better support and sustainability…but is a slow process. In the meantime, Adopt a Dispensary helps keep the clinics viable and their doors open.