A trip to the centre

Posted in: Blog, by Mark Topley, on 2nd December 2014 | Comments Off on A trip to the centre


Last week I was on the road for the last time this year. Just 4 days that took in Dar es Salaam, the commercial capital, and Dodoma, the seat of government and the official capital of Tanzania. It’s a bit like the Sydney/Canberra thing the Australians have, except that essentially Dodoma was chosen because it is dead centre in the country. That, and (so I’m told) because it’s the family home of a former President.

What this means is that a truck stop in the middle of nowhere, with hardly any commercial flights, has become the capital city.

I’ve been here before, during a DVP we did a few years back, and enjoyed the sleepy town atmosphere and change of scene. I came with my wife Jo and we brought the kids on a 9 hour drive in each direction, with a 2 night stop in Dodoma in the middle. It was a great time, and as this was the first time we had done a DVP outside of the reach of Mwanza, a proud moment to see the team pull it off.

This time was different. Because Parliament is sitting.

The town is alive with activity and there are VIP vehicles everywhere. Every other person seems to be dressed in a sharp suit and every third vehicle is a government land cruiser – personal number plates of Ministers, Deputy Ministers, Regional Commissioners, even the Speaker of the House flash by.

Bunge (parliament in Kiswahili) doesn’t meet all the time, so it’s a frenetic period.

My reason for being here was to follow up on the visit we had to the 10th Anniversary DVP last month from the Deputy Minister of Health, Dr Kebwe. Having seen the programme, he wanted a discussion on how he could help to expand and strengthen the DVP.

Sandwiched into his punishing schedule, we had a short but very fruitful meeting. Sometimes this job involves a lot of travel for a very short meeting, and this was one such occasion. I’ve got much better over the years at making them count – be very prepared, have 3 things you want them to understand, and 2 things you want them to do, and get to the point. In less than 15 minutes we had cemented the relationship and reached agreement to move forward on several issues with his support which will really help with DVP.

As a former rural District Medical Officer who studied the impact of the absence of emergency oral health care on communities, Dr Kebwe understands very well the need for basic services to be available, and so is extremely supportive of our programme.

Tanzania has always led the way on a pragmatic response to the fact there simply aren’t enough dentists, nor the funds to equip them in the rural areas of the country. But rather than do nothing, the Tanzania Ministry of Health health has sanctioned our work and the results have been very good.

It’s a long way to go for 15 mins. But sometimes that’s enough, and I’m looking forward to seeing how this new level of support will create even more impact for communities in pain.

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