Yesterday we drove with government officials to the Mkanda waiting shelter about 100 kilometers from the city. The last 20 kilometers was a rough dirt road that passed through several villages. We reached the end of the road and the health clinic and maternity ward that we were sent to assess. At least thirty pregnant women sat in the dirt or on reed mats outside the clinic. Just waiting for their time to come and for the one nurse at the facility to hopefully deliver their babies safely. Some had their other children with them, running around in the yard with a few dogs, chickens and goats. The conditions were truly shocking. A new building, the waiting shelter, stood new and shiny just waiting for beds to arrive to provide an improved place for the women to stay. But the clinic still lacked supplies, staff, running water and other dire necessities. The women stared at us with curiosity and distrust and most of the children laughed at our white faces. Although the shelter seemed like an improvement, the health official estimated that around 80 women would someday fill the 35 beds that were going to be provided. As we contemplated the water infrastructure that our organization might be able to provide; a well, latrines and a washing station, it was clear that this was only a small band aid for the more endemic effects of extreme poverty.
Women waiting to give birth at the clinic