Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Tanzania by the Numbers

It can sometimes be difficult to imagine the needs of those who live a world away from us. For those who have not had the opportunity to visit some of the more impoverished parts of the world, it's easy and perhaps even natural to almost think of such places as imaginary even though we know they are not.

When our contact at Compassion, Kirk Winter, told us that there was a need to start a Child Survival Program in Mbulu, Tanzania, I'll be the first to admit that it was difficult for this kid who grew up in an Ohio suburb to imagine daily life in a distant African village. Recently though, Kirk supplied us with a copy of Mbulu's CSP "Start-up Information Form" which gives a brief summary of the village's need along with several supporting statistics. It doesn't come with accompanying photographs, but I think you'll agree with me that the numbers paint a vivid and sobering picture of desperation and heartache that give the term "vicious cycle" a whole new meaning.

The form quickly reveals that in Mbulu the average age of first-time mothers is 15. Only 47% of these new moms give birth in 1 of the 2 area medical facilties due to the fact that they simply can't afford the high hospital charges. The natural result is that maternal and infant mortality rates are high because mothers are forced to deliver without the presence of a skilled health provider.

Should mom and child survive delivery, the realities that await them do not improve their odds for a better future. A young mother's simple lack of education exposes her and her new child to a greater risk of communicable diseases, and they often find themselves alone since it is the culture and custom of the village to shun unwed mother's, leaving them without a connection to their family or financial support. Fathers offer little help as so many of them disengage from their responsibilities and descend into alcoholism- out of work and out of touch. The young mother, desperate and alone, does whatever she can to survive and to feed her starving newborn by resorting to prostitution. The majority children who die under the age of 5 in Mbulu simply pass away because of malnutrition and starvation. It continues on and on and on...

I suppose the best and worst news I can tell you here is that this very real picture of despair is completely preventable, but the wait continues. Together, we can stop this. Education, access to pre and postnatal healthcare, nutritious meals, vocational training, and spiritual guidance and support are all available and are being delivered in communities around the world today. The stories of hope are just as real as those where no hope is in sight. I invite you to watch the video below to see what your contribution can do.

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