When Fatuma leaves her job as a nurse every night to tuck her daughters into bed, she hopes she is not bringing home an illness that will harm them.
With help from AmeriCares, Fatuma will soon be certain that not only is she safe at her job, but her family, patients and neighbors are protected from infectious disease as well. “If we are safe, the community is safe,” she says. “That’s how the cycle goes.”
Fatuma works in the labor ward at Musoma Hospital in Musoma, Tanzania, where she’s on a team of 20 nurses that delivers 10 to 13 babies a day. Before AmeriCares program began, staff would ask patients to bring gloves and other safety gear when they arrived at the hospital because shelves were often empty. Without protection and safety procedures, diseases such as HIV and hepatitis B and C can easily spread in a labor ward – from patient to health worker or health worker to patient. “I cry for personal protective equipment,” Fatuma. “It is essential.”
For seven years, AmeriCares has been improving health worker safety in Tanzania. After AmeriCares pilot safety program at Bugando Medical Centre in Mwanza proved successful, the program expanded to three more hospitals. Fatuma is one of 1,750 health workers and students now taking part. AmeriCares will vaccinate staff against hepatitis B and supply the hospital with gloves, waste bins and other equipment as well as training proven to create a culture of safety. AmeriCares is doing similar training in Sierra Leone, where unsafe conditions contributed to the spread of Ebola last year.
“Safe hospitals and clinics improve health in communities,” says Elikem Tomety Archer, AmeriCares senior director of global programs. “Our program strengthens health systems and will help protect communities from disease outbreaks now and for years to come.”
“Safety is always needed. Safety is what we are longing for,” says Fatuma. “If I am not safe, how long will I live? Who will take care of my kids?”