Following an amazing weekend in Unguja, I managed to get pretty sick, spending three days in bed without eating anything and waiting for a high fever to subside. Once the suspected food poisoning had past, the pace of life for me here in Pemba slowed down quite a bit. Taking things a little slower just seemed like a good idea, and I’ve really been enjoying the new approach.
I spent a couple of days wrapping up my final report for my Master’s and since then I have transitioned into a supporting role for another project, which regards the reinforcement of the current Health Management Information System (HMIS) in Zanzibar. The project head from Italy, Dr. Giovanna, arrived at the end of November and since then I have been working with her.
This week the local HMIS coordinator and Dr. Giovanna organized a week of training for district-level disease surveillance and health management team folks. The topics that we are covering are new HMIS forms that will be introduced next year, Schistosomiasi (for which there is currently an elimination campaign on Pemba also supported by the Foundation) and problem solving regarding HMIS challenges. The week has produced a lot of great discussion and collaboration, and it is great to see the amount of ownership that the district-level personnel as well as the local HMIS coordinators have taken regarding this work. Sitting in meetings all day long in Kiswahili has definitely helped my ear for the language, but I am far from fully understanding exactly what is going on.
Within the next month, these trainings will be taken down to the health facility level. Most of them will happen over the weekend in order to limit the disruption to service provision, so between now and when I leave I’ll be working weekends, including Christmas and New Years. Having something to keep me busy on these days actually gives me a bit of comfort, and hopefully it will keep me from missing home too much. Honestly though, it’s so hot here, the idea that Christmas is just around the corner seems impossible.
It has been really interesting to have a closer into this project and honestly, it has given my a more positive outlook on international cooperation efforts. At the same time though, I think what makes this project so unique is that is works closely with the Ministry of Health and inside the HMIS program, which is already running with great local management and organization.
I’ve even had a chance to cook with Hasina some in the last few weeks. Last Saturday she showed me a great okra recipe with tomatoe paste, fresh tomato, onion, garlic and lime. Cooking with Hasina is great, but half of the fun is really going shopping. We weave through the nearby villages on dirt paths, going from one little hidden store to another, getting one ingredient here, another one there. I get the sense that she is one of those women who knows everyone and everything and it is really great to spend time with her. She also allows me to fumble around in Kiswahili as much as I want. She is a great teacher, always willing to repeat things as many times as I need.
That’s the latest from here. Everything is going well and I am looking forward to finishing out my last couple of weeks here on the Green Island. If all goes as planned (and with 5 flights over 4 days there is likely to be a mistake somewhere) I’ll be back in Seattle in 20 days. I’m really looking forward to it.