CRUSHEEN nurse Fiona Curtin will celebrate New Year’s Day in East Africa sharing her medical skills in the overcrowded maternity unit of Arusha’s main hospital in Tanzania.
The Drumbonniv woman is currently studying for her post graduate degree in midwifery studies at Queens University, Belfast. Having qualified as a nurse at NUIG, Fiona spent two years working in Reading, near London, before moving to Belfast.
“As part of the course I have the amazing opportunity to travel to Tanzania for a four-week placement to work with women and children in dire need of obstetric and midwifery care,” Fiona explained.
“There is a link between Malawi and Queens University and that is where a lot of people go to volunteer. I wanted to go to go to a different country, not where everyone else is going. I did some research and Tanzania has one of the fastest growing populations in the world and also has high levels of poverty. I found a company called Women and Children Tanzania which is run by a British midwife and it works in Arusha in Tanzania. She is trying to raise awarnesss of the hospital and to get students to come over and volunteer in the hospital. So I decided to go with her. Two other students from my course are going over at the same time and the money we pay for the placement goes to that hospital,” she added.
Fiona has always wanted to volunteer and share her skills and training where they are needed.
“This is my first chance to do something like this and I am dying to go. I don’t really know what to expect. From my research I have found that about 30% of all births are attended by a medical professional whereas here every labour involves one-on-one attention from a midwife. We will bring our skills with us, and even though we are only students we will be as hands on as we possibly can be,” she said.
The organisation, Women and Children Tanzania, warns those taking on placement with them that maternity facilities in Tanzania are “very basic” with “a chronic shortage of equipment” in many hospitals affecting everything from gloves to life-saving drugs.
“What we are doing there will never be one-on-one because there are only 10 ante-natal beds and you may have three women to one bed. So you could have 30 women in the ante-natal room. They all in labour in one room together. Then when birth is imminent they are brought into the birthing room. You might have five patients to one doctor or midwife at that stage and you have to prioritise, depending on what is happening,” Fiona outlined.
Women and Children Tanzania charges a programme fee to participants and some of this is paid to the hospitals directly through money and equipment. As well as the placement itself it also provides home stay accommodation, basic Swahili tuition and an orientation to the area.
“Any sponsorship donated will go towards this fee and any leftover will help towards travelling expenses and so on,” Fiona explained.
“You pay a fee to the company but money is donated to the hospital itself. I will spend a week with a Masai community too and any funding I get will go to the family I stay with there. The funding will probably provide them with food for about a year or so,” she explained.
Fiona leaves for her placement with Women and Children Tanzania on December 30 and will return at the end of January.
“Anyone who would like to make a donation, it doesn’t matter how big or small, they can do so on Error! Hyperlink reference not valid.. Everything will help. The college has been great and has given me lots of medical supplies so I will be bringing those as well but I am hoping to take a few extra bags with me so if people have clothes, bedding, medicine, nappies or anything like that which they would like to donate, I’d be very happy to bring them. They can contact me by email to make arrangements on firstname.lastname@example.org,” Fiona concluded.