|Into Africa: health care needs of a different kind
Dr. Dawn Howse stands on a bridge overlooking the river near the hospital in Tshelanyemba, Zimbabwe, which runs dry four months of the year. New equipment is needed to pumps, electrical motors and pipes to gather the water and bring it to the hospital.
Dr. Max House, professor emeritus and former lieutenant-governor of Newfoundland and Labrador, is spearheading a project with John Perlin of the Stokers Group of the Rotary Club of St. John’s to raise $26,000 to improve health services at the hospital in Tshelanyemba, Zimbabwe. The hospital has a special connection to Newfoundland through its only physician, Dr. Dawn Howse. She is a graduate of Memorial’s medical class of 1978 and recipient of the 2003 Outstanding Volunteer Service Award by Memorial's Alumni Association. She has spent the past 14 years working in Zimbabwe as a doctor with the Salvation Army.
Dr. House’s interest in supporting the needs of the hospital began when Dr. Dawn Howse spoke at a Rotary Club luncheon last summer. The club’s Stokers Group decided to raise money to modernize the water supply for the 110-bed hospital and upgrade the waste water and sewerage system. The water source is unusual a river flows through the area, but for four months of the year the riverbed is dry and water is obtained by installing perforated pipes below the riverbed, pumping the water into a holding tank and then pumping the water about two kilometers to a holding tank at the hospital. The water is then chlorinated and piped to the hospital and other buildings.
Dr. House explained that the whole water system needs to be replaced and the sewage system also needs to be upgraded. The total cost is about $26,000 Canadian, and $11,000 has already been raised through the Stokers Group, the Rotary Club (International Committee), RBC Dominion Securities and a private donation from Sharon Pippy.
In his talk to the Rotary Club of St. John’s on Feb. 19, Dr. House gave some background on Zimbabwe, formerly Southern Rhodesia, which along with Botswana has the highest rate of HIV/AIDS in the world. Life expectancy is about 36 years and along with HIV/AIDS there are rampant infectious diseases, including antibiotic-resistant tuberculosis. The local farmers have no machinery and the source of power is chiefly donkeys.
The hospital at Tshelanyemba has grown from a nursing station 15 years ago to its present status as the central hospital for three other government nursing stations, which refer patients. Dr. Howse is assisted by about 12 nurses, a laboratory technician and some support staff.
Dr. House said he is optimistic that Rotary International will provide some support for the Zimbabwe project and funds have also been requested from the Salvation Army. Fundraising for the project will continue until the total is raised.