Once a month the clinic in this small town opens up for the moms. I doubt many of us would call it a town. It’s a series of mud-covered huts that are gathered together at the side of the road. Nearby a larger one of the huts–a weight hangs from a tree. It’s an impressive tree and is shading what looks to be 50 women. It is a tree of life.
These moms will use this weight to measure their babies and record their progress. Just like American moms, they carry a card with them that tracks their baby’s progress and his/her vaccinations. But their card has one difference. It highlights three different sections in red, green and yellow. Red means their baby’s growth signals danger.
When we arrived they were all gathered under the tree outside the clinic listening to advice and instructions. The photo above shows a small portion of the moms and their children– Tanzanian moms on average have between four and five children.
A nearby hut made of wooden sticks and mud serves as the clinic. This was far from the sterile environments we have in the U.S. There are no doors. It’s a claustrophobic room where two of the walls are missing sections of mud. (I’ve included the photo) Inside moms are lined up with their babies so they can receive their vaccinations. A simple bench serves as the beginning of the line and three moms hold their infants patiently waiting for the nurse to come and give their babies the medicine. The woman administering the vaccines is so efficient; she just pinches the baby’s thigh and swiftly injects them one at a time. As quickly as the baby gets the injection the mom gathers up her crying baby and hurries out of the clinic to make room for more moms. Outside a child needed to go to the bathroom so she simply lifted her skirts and did so, not even blinking an eye in the midst of this crowd of people. These women know how important this is for keeping their babies healthy. And they are so proud of them. They hold them up for us to see and photograph.
While I’m sure there are clinics in the urban areas that mirror more closely our clinics, for many this is their access to vaccines and care. They don’t care about the surrounding, just access to the medicine. It really puts a perspective on things, doesn’t it.