Monday, 2 November 2009

A snake park and a health clinic

The snake park where we’re staying is run by Ma, BJ and their son who’s in his forties. They moved up from South Africa 30 years ago and set up the campsite at Snake Park. Enter the bar and you can emerse yourself in 30 years of history. The walls, ceiling and bar is covered in photos, t-shirts and graffiti left behind by people passing through as they travelled Africa. The Snake Park is not just a campsite but an actual snake park with a resident collection of snakes, crocs and birds from Africa. The collection covers everything from puff adders to black mambas and small non-poisonous beaked snakes.

Whist it looks like it could just be a personal zoo, the Snake Park serves a much more important purpose. Ma and BJ have immersed themselves in their local Tanzanian community, setting up the only free health clinic in 150km. The clinic is paid for by BJ and any donations given to them as well as a cut off the takings from the bar and campsite. It specializes in snake bite but also treats everything from chest infections and eye problems to malarial screening and emergency first aid.

With one of the local masai guards (employed because the local populace don’t mess with them…a poison arrow can kill in less than 20 minutes) we pay a visit to the local clinic where we meet one of the two nurses employed there. The clinic is not much larger than a house with a small diagnosis room, a microscope room used to diagnose malaria, and mini ward with a couple of beds and a desk in the entrance with a computer where they upload records. There is also a resident doctor. Together this miniscule medical treat upwards of 70 people a day on market days (mon, tues) and 20-30 patients a day on other days. All the treatment and medication is free, with just an option for a donation if one can afford one.

Jane (the nurse) told us the story of one young lad who was bitten by a black mamba which comes with an 80% chance of death. After 9 doses of anti-venom, a course of antibiotics and some anti-inflammatory drugs the boy’s life was saved. Such a poignant story goes to show this impact of this small and yet valuable health clinic on the local population.

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