We’re sorry but this is a really sad update from Zanzibar. We want to share the story of Patima Shamhuni Ussi, the wife of Mohamed, one of the excellent English language teachers who works with us to inspire the children at the Safari English Club. Patima and Mohamed are both 28 years old and they have a beautiful and bright boy who is just 17 months old, named Maher which means skilful, able, experienced, clever, genius. We met Patima in January when she and Mohamed visited our apartment for dinner. Thanks to Mohamed’s teaching, she understood a lot of our English even if she was a bit shy at first about speaking to us and we enjoyed getting to know her.
Earlier this month Patima gave birth to a baby girl, called Maitham, at her parents home. Initially she was in good health and Mohamed bought her a chicken from Gasica’s chicken farm which she enjoyed eating. But a few days after the birth, she became very ill. Patima’s parents rented a car to take her to Mnazi Mmoja, the main hospital on the island which is located in Stone Town. She was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and after 7 days she sadly died, leaving two young children and Mohamed.
The days when Patima was in hospital were traumatic. The doctors didn’t seem to know what they were doing and just kept asking Mohamed for more money for drugs for Patima. Apart from Mohamed and Patima’s mother who was staying at the hospital during the whole of her stay at the hospital, no-one else was allowed to visit her in hospital. The doctors refused to let Mohamed see Patima’s medical notes. Mohamed is happy for us to share the story so that we can give an idea of the scale of problems that Zanzibar faces, not only in education, but in healthcare too. The Rotary Club in Zanzibar has a joint focus on health and educational initiatives. Apart from generous sponsorship of educational activities, they have raised considerable sums for HIPZ (Health Improvement Project Zanzibar www.hipz.org.uk) which is working to improve two cottage hospitals on the island.
In the UK we have almost forgotten the dangers of childbirth. Efficient doctors, regular checkups and effective drugs mean that most problems are resolved before they become life threatening. The majority of maternal deaths in Zanzibar occur during childbirth and the time immediately after birth. The main causes of maternal death include haemorrhage, pregnancy-induced hypertension, obstructed labour, infection and unsafe abortion. Death rates for mothers is estimated at 2,900 per 100,000 live births (29 per 1000) compared with 10 out of 100,000 in the UK! Infant mortality in Zanzibar is 54 per 1,000 live births whereas in the UK it’s 3.7 deaths per 1,000. In Zanzibar 50% of all babies are delivered at home with unskilled attendants. (Data from WHO).
It’s hard to imagine what trepidation a woman must feel when approaching childbirth and the risks of death are so high. Fortunately Maitham is doing well and is being looked after by Mohamed’s mother. Mohamed lives with his family so he can help with looking after the children.
In Zanzibar funerals take place rapidly after death. More women than men attend the funeral of a woman. While we were in Zanzibar a woman from the neighbourhood died. From our apartment we looked at the gathering of women that started early in the morning of the funeral. Women led the religious readings before the body was taken to the mosque and then on to the cemetary. Our thoughts are with Mohamed as he completes his university studies and adjusts to life without Patima.