MedShare’s Volunteer Programs Manager, Lindsey Barber is visiting hospitals throughout East Africa this month. Here is her powerful experience at a hospital in Tanzania:
Yesterday I had the privilege of spending the day within the bustling halls of Muhimbili National Hospital, Tanzania’s leading treatment center for urgent care. The CEO and staff beamed with pride as they walked me through a state of the art emergency department, the first ER in Tanzanias history to meet international standards. This newly constructed department was made possible through a partnership between The Abbott Fund and the government of Tanzania aimed at improving healthcare throughout the country. Not only were patients being treated with shiny, new equipment, the staff attending to them were rigorous and attentive, lead by University of Chicago and Cornell graduate, Dr. Alwyn Mziray, a Tanzanian native returned home. There was no room to question why the hospital had received such a high ranking.
As the afternoon progressed, the hospital’s leadership wanted me to catch the full scope of the facility so that I could understand the extent of their need for supplies. As we moved on through nine additional wards, a whole new view began to unfold. It was still a bustling facility, staffed with a stellar team, but other departments were far from shiny and new. We ended the day in the OB/GYN and Neonatal ICU. Here new mothers slept two to a bed and filled every inch of space on the floor, and struggling premature infants slept three to a mat in a room heated to 90+ degrees because there were no functioning incubators.
As the day came to a close, I was struck by the startling contrast between these two wards. One of the most glaring problems in our world today is the ever-growing disparity between the haves and the have-nots. As disheartening as that reality is, it is one that you almost come to expect, even if you wish it wasnt so. But who would have thought that such a vivid picture of unnecessary disparity existed, not just across borders, across tribes, or even across neighborhoods, but across wards with nothing more than a few offices between them?
At the very moment my heart becomes heavy at this thought, it simultaneously becomes full of hope in light of who I’m representing in this place. The bottom line is that everyone has their niche. Where one organization’s strength may lie in elevating a nations level of emergency care, MedShare’s forte is in equipping hospitals with the supplies they need to sustain a high level of care across the board. Much of the theme behind what MedShare strives to do is to bridge the gap between surplus and need. In that moment, I realized in a very real way that that is only the tip of the iceberg in gaps that we are helping to bridge. Whether as staff, financial contributors, volunteers or simply as fans, this is an incredible reality to be a part of.