Notes from the Road: Africa 2018

It’s been many years since my first trip to Africa, but each trip changes me. I already know this trip will be no different.

On a Samaritan’s Purse trip in 2007

Tracy and I are here for two-weeks this time: Tanzania, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Kenya. The trip will bring together work from Hope Through Healing Hands (global community health) and The Nature Conservancy (intersection nature and health) in conjunction with Pathfinder International (global women’s health). Since 2004, Hope Through Healing Hands has invested over $2.2 million in direct funding to Africa and has sent over 60 Frist Global Health Leaders to African nations including Kenya, South Africa, and Tanzania for medical service and training.

As chairman of Hope Through Healing Hands, I will explore how Hope Through Healing Hands, consistent with our founding charter to improve the health of communities around the world, can globally impact peoples’ well-being and health by more smartly addressing and integrating: food and nutrition; clean water by protecting sources and exploring the power of social impact water funds; sustainable agricultural practices; environment and pollution; climate change and coastal impact; maternal and reproductive health; infant mortality and child health.

The expertise of The Nature Conservancy – the leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people – will be invaluable as we study in depth its science-based best practices in each of these areas.

Internet access is intermittent, but I will share updates as I can.

Sunday, January 28: Met for an hour with David Banks, country director for Tanzania for TNC. Presented on Hope Through Healing Hands, detailing our organization’s history in holistic aspects of health throughout Africa starting with our initial investment in Africare in 2004.  Sought feedback on possible synergies/opportunities.

Monday, January 29:  Took a 4-hour plane ride and then a 2-hour boat ride to visit the tropical mountain forests of the Greater Mahale Ecosystem (GME). The mountains rise eastward from the remote shore of Lake Tanganyika — one of the world’s largest lakes. Home to 93% of Tanzania’s chimpanzees, 250 endemic species, and some of the most vulnerable people on earth, scientists identified this region as one of the top conservation opportunities in Africa because of its rich terrestrial and freshwater diversity, intact condition, and strong probability of success.

In this spirit, over the next three days we will explore the Mahale ecosystem. The GME’s diversity and the well-being of its people are threatened by extreme poverty, a rapidly growing human population, and a lack of resources to support good planning and governance. TNC is partnering with Pathfinder International, a global reproductive health organization, on an innovative, holistic project that simultaneously addresses reproductive health care, livelihood, and natural resource management needs. Hope Through Healing Hands has liaised with Pathfinder International before, in Ethiopia, where we saw powerful examples of how healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies saves lives of women and children.

Tuesday, January 30: Mahale National Park:  Approximately two million acres in western Tanzania with western border on Lake Tanganyika, the second deepest lake (about a mile) in the world and 350 miles long. The lake holds 13 percent of all the world’s freshwater lakes combined, more than all the Great Lakes in the US.

Tuesday evening, the scientific lecture and discussion focused on a fascinating example which ties human health (schistosomiasis prevention) to conservation efforts to prevent erosion and runoff along the lake, which substantially alters the eco-habitat. Smart conservation prevents the disease, which is caused by parasitic worms. Of interest is recent scientific findings that link schistosomiasis to increased HIV/AIDS infections, emphasizing even more the value of conservation.