Dental and visual health off the beaten track

A few years ago, having a toothache in Mwanga, Tanzania, brought its share of difficulties. To ease the pain, or at the very least get a diagnosis, one had to go to Mawenzi Hospital in Moshi, 53 kilometers away. A little trip that consumed time and money, even more in the case where several appointments were necessary to solve the problem.

Then, Terre Sans Frontières (TSF) installed a dental chair and clinical equipment at the Mwanga Health Center itself, as part of its voluntary cooperation program (VCP) carried out in collaboration with Global Affairs Canada (GAC). At the same time, professionals from Canada began voluntary cooperation stays in the community, to share their expertise with professionals in the field and build their capacities.

No more toothaches on bumpy roads, dusty in the dry season and mired in the rainy season.

“All dental treatments are now available in Mwanga,” said Abdul Salima, a 61-year-old farmer from Kifula community, who benefited from the services. “I no longer need to travel for treatment. The time I save in this way, I can invest in economic activities to increase my income,” he adds. His last treatment cost him four times less than the minimum $50 he would have paid by going to Moshi, since in addition to the treatment, transport and accommodation costs are necessary. Considering that the average family income is $22 a day in Tanzania, proximity to specialized health care makes a huge difference for rural people.

Monica Lyaruu, a farmer from Usangi, received treatment at Usangi Hospital, also located in Mwanga district, where TSF set up a visual health clinic, in addition to a dental clinic. His low vision issues have been resolved, making it much easier for him to read and go about his business. She was also relieved not to have to travel to Moshi for treatment. She takes advantage of the time saved and her improved eyesight to attend workshops and seminars for better agricultural practice, which helps her increase her income and improve her family’s living conditions.

“Thanks to the skills shared by Canada’s volunteers, we have greatly improved our organizational and professional capacities. It is now 90% of dental and visual health cases that we are able to treat at the district hospital,” rejoices Doctor Israel Upendo, head of Usangi Hospital.

In addition to developing the supply of dental and vision care in these communities, TSF and Canadian volunteers have also made sure to set up a prevention component, reinforced by the distribution of leaflets, the installation of posters and banners or the holding of information kiosks, including at the Mwanga market.

In the end, the whole community feels supported and challenged. In return, local professionals become fully involved and the population becomes more attentive to other issues, such as the environment, and gets involved in improving its environment. This is what she did by participating in a planting of a hundred trees.