8 February 2013

Tanzania: Improved Health Services Remain a Dream in Nyamongo

NYAMONGO residents in Northern Tarime District are in desperate need of quality medical services. Currently, the residents heavily rely on Sungusungu Health Centre which is said to face a critical shortage of medical facilities and other working equipments.

The Health centre is a largest government owned facility in Tarime District and it had been designed to serve thousand of people living in the areas surrounded by a giant North Mara Gold Mine which is operated by the African Barrick Gold (ABG). ABG has spent around 350,000 US dollars to finance expansion of the facility in the recent months, a move that had made it to have full health centre status as well as making it the second largest public health facility in the district.

The Energy and Mineral Deputy Minister, Mr Stephen Masele and the in charge of the Environment in the Vice- President's Office, Mr Charles Kitwanga, had witnessed inauguration of the expansion of the health facility late last year. The expansion was aimed at making the health centre provide a wide range of quality health services to local communities surrounding the mine.

Following addition of infrastructure with the support of the mining company, Sungusungu is now rated to be the second largest hospital in Tarime after the District Government Hospital situated at Bomani area, about 50 kilometres from Nyamongo area. But the crucial public health facility is reported to have been going without medicines even to treat patients suffering from common diseases such as typhoid and malaria, say local residents.

"If you go to Sungusungu health centre it looks modern, but you will only get beds to sleep and no medicines at all. Patients are compelled to look for medicines from private pharmacies", claims an area resident, Mr Ghati Michibi (51). Officials estimate that the health centre serves about 27,000 people living in the villages located near the mine and a few patients hailing from the neighbouring Serengeti District. "Generally service delivery at Sungunsugu is so poor than a small dipensary.

Lack of medicine is the biggest problem", Mr Michibi told the 'Daily News' early this week. Ms Phelomena Tontora, a special seat councillor with Tarime District Council, says she was recently admitted to Sungusungu health centre and failed to get proper treatment due to lack of medicine. "I was personally hospitalized at Sungusungu health centre but there was even no plaster. The situation is really alarming.

It is like Nyamongo people have been sidelined when it comes to health services. It is time to remember Nyamongo people", Ms Phelomena told the special Tarime District Council full meeting on Tuesday last week. Special seat councillor expressed serious concern over what she described as poor health services in Nyamongo area which is made up of several villages adjacent one of the country's largest gold mine.

She was contributing in the Tarime District Council's 2013/2014 Expenditure Estimates tabled before the meeting chaired by the Tarime District Executive Director (DED), Mr Omar Athuman. "I have gone through this budget but I don't see funds to improve health services in Nyamongo. Why are we being sidelined?", she queried at the packed meeting which was also attended by Tarime District Medical Officer (DMO) Dr Samson Marwa. The DMO said he was yet to get official report that Sungusungu Health Centre is experiencing critical shortage of medicines.

" I don't have any report about lack of medicine problem from the in charge of the health centre", Dr Marwa told the 'Daily News' shortly after the meeting. But Tarime District Council Chairman Mr Amos Sagara acknowledged a deplorable condition at the health facility saying efforts were underway to address the problem. However, he declined to disclose more details on how the problem would be addressed.

The District Council projects to use around 9bn/- to execute various development projects in the coming financial year (2013/2014), according to DED Athuman. Tarime Member of Parliament Mr Nyambari Nyangwine (CCM) is also not happy with health services delivery in the villages surrounding North Mara Gold Mine citing critical shortage of health supplies faced by the villages.

"A lot of efforts have been made to improve education, water and road sectors but still many people have no access to good health services in the villages near the mine", Mr Nyangwine told a press conference in Tarime shortly after making a long week working tour in his constituency. The MP cited rural road network and education as some of the sectors that have registered admirable achievements in Tarime constituency between 2010-2012.

Many rural roads in Tarime are now passable without difficulties throughout the year, according to Mr Nyangwine, thanks to the fourth phase government for pumping millions of shillings to execute rural road projects in the area. "We have also opened new roads in several villages and they are now passable without difficulties", the MP said.

He also said Tarime has managed to increase the number of secondary schools from 20 to 34 during the same period, a move that greatly helped to create sufficient secondary schools placements in the area. Pass rate in standard seven national exams has also jumped from 38 per cent to 68 per cent , he said.

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