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Partnering for Hope: Zaina’s Story

Posted by On December 9, 2015
By Crystal Cazier On this 54th anniversary of the United Republic of Tanzania’s Independence, Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon celebrates the progress of the nation to reduce deaths from cervical cancer through a tripartite partnership between Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon, the Vodacom Foundation, and T-MARC Tanzania.
Zaina Mkongwa discussing her experience as a beneficiary of the Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon, Vodacom Foundation and T-MARC Grant
Zaina Mkongwa discussing her experience as a beneficiary of the Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon, Vodacom Foundation and T-MARC Grant
Scared and uncertain after a diagnosis of cervical cancer, Zaina Mkongwa, a subsistence farmer and single mother of three from the rural Mafinga District in Tanzania, boarded a bus destined for Dar es Salaam to undergo treatment at Ocean Road Cancer Institute (ORCI), the only facility in Tanzania currently offering comprehensive advanced cancer treatment services. Journeying 350 miles from her home to the unfamiliar city for treatment was her only hope of survival, and her children’s opportunity to grow up with their mother. There are others like Zaina – rural Tanzanian women diagnosed with cervical cancer who, without proper treatment, will succumb to their diagnosis as a result of the many, unfair challenges women in rural Tanzania face. One common challenge is limited financial resources to cover the costs of transportation, housing at the treatment center, or the treatment itself. Through a grant of $87,400 from the Vodacom Foundation to T-MARC Tanzania, under the Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon partnership, one of these fundamental barriers to treatment is being addressed. By covering the cost of transportation for women diagnosed with cervical cancer from rural areas in Tanzania to ORCI, women who would not otherwise be able to afford the transportation fees now have a new lease on life. Fully funded round-trip transportation services from Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon-supported Regions, Iringa, Mbeya and Mwanza, are making it possible for women to travel from their homes to ORCI to receive life-saving treatment.         T-MARC Tanzania works with the Regional Health Management teams in the three Regions to identify patients and refer them to Ambassadors from Comprehensive Community Based Rehabilitation in Tanzania (CCBRT), who receive money from T-MARC Tanzania via Vodacom’s mobile-payment system, m-pesaTM, to buy bus tickets for the women. A Cervical Cancer Champion from T-MARC Tanzania greets the women when they arrive in Dar es Salaam, and makes sure they get safely to ORCI and back home again. When Bugando Medical Centre (BMC) in Mwanza opens its radiotherapy unit, the program plans to offer transportation services to that facility as well.
The first group of women transported as part of this project arrive in Dar es Salaam from Iringa Region.
The first group of women transported as part of this project arrive in Dar es Salaam from Iringa Region.
Since the beginning of the program in June 2015, 36 women have been transported under this partnership, and 22 women have finished their course of treatment and returned home. One of those women is Zaina, who before she left ORCI said, “I have responded well to treatment and feel much better than before. I can’t wait to get back home to my children.” Zaina calls on other women to access cervical cancer screening services offered in Tanzania, wisely noting that, “cervical cancer is treatable, especially if it is detected early.”   Crystal is the Assistant for Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon.