Its situation along a fast, busy road in the middle of a densely populated area makes the Usa River DREAM centre the prime candidate to become the central point of reference for DREAM throughout the north of Tanzania, thus opening up new horizons.
The Usa River centre has already received several requests to establish links and for assistance, particularly in diagnostics, from other – mostly diocesan – hospitals, health centres and dispensaries in the area. A particularly explicit request, already reported on this website, has been made by the Vincentian health centre of Masanga in the region of Mara, not far from Lake Victoria. Another appeal for help has arrived from Mererani, a small, isolated mining centre north of Kilmanjaro.
Mererani arises more or less from the desert, at the start of the arid, desolate Masai Steppe which stretches for hundreds of kilometers south of the volcanic mountainous chain which makes up North Tanzania. It began as a settlement to provide accommodation for the miners who flooded into the area to work in the huge tanzanite mine situated there, the only one in the world to mine this precious stone which takes its name from the country.
In order to provide the miners and their families with all the necessities, small commercial activities soon sprang up in the town. However, everything – water, food, clothes, tools etc. – has to be delivered via a couple of access roads. The plain surrounding Mererani does not produce anything. It hardly ever rains so it is impossible to cultivate bananas or maize or raise even a small herd. So the town is kept going by suppliers at an ever greater cost as the price of petrol continues to rise.
Mererani looks like the classical mining town in the westerns, the colour of dust and bone dry. Water is a precious commodity which arrives in enormous containers of 1000, 2000, 5000 litres. It is river or rain water which perhaps would not be drunk in the city, but here in Mererani it is more than acceptable, though not cheap at 25 shillings a litre. Considering that an average salary in Tanzania is 200,000 shillings (€120.00) and that as well as for drinking, water is needed for personal hygiene, washing clothes, cooking etc., it is obvious that whereas in the West it costs very little, here in Mererani water is a large part of the average family’s budget.
But apart from these considerations, according to those who know Mererani well, and for this reason have turned to DREAM for help and co-operation, what is worse is that the area is particularly hit by AIDS. The causes can be attributed both to the presence of mostly male workers in the mines and to the polygamy.
The dispensaries in the area are often not well enough equipped to treat the sick and it is too demanding and costly for the patients to face the journey as far as the hospitals in Arusha or Moshi. It is also this too that the people complain of, decrying their sense of isolation. Instead, the people of Mererani ask to be able to discover trust and hope again, to be able to imagine a present and a future for themselves and their dear ones once more.
DREAM has chosen to listen to their appeal. Links with Usa River have been established, a screening process has begun and in the last weeks several dozen patients from the mining town have started receiving treatment at the DREAM centre. Sometimes it is the patients who make their way towards Usa River, at others it is the health workers who go to Mererani for the whole day. Some activists have started working locally too.
It will be an ongoing project to help as many people as possible from the area. It is a concrete and important reply to give to a population which feels far from everything and everyone, abandoned to their own destiny of isolation and sickness.