"I can ride the motorbike perfectly well now!" She says proudly. Neema is softly spoken and gentle spirited. But there is a strength about her that you can feel as soon as you get near her.
Neema is a 24year old, Clinical Officer, who works at Kamanga Health Centre, as part of Cedar Tanzania’s Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR) program, that offers medical care to people with disabilities (PWD) in remote areas, in and around the Nyamatongo Ward.
“At first when they told me I will be riding a motorbike, I was a bit scared,” Neema confesses, “but later on, after I attended the training of how to ride a motorbike, I thought it was a lot of fun. And of course now I am able to reach people with disabilities even in remote areas.’
Having two brothers and five sisters wasn’t easy for Neema’s parents to support her through school, but they persevered and Neema found herself qualifying in 2017 with a Clinical Officer Diploma from The Sengerema Clinical Officer Training Centre.
Her studies were very practical in nature and saw her gaining experience in a number of medical facilities including Mkoani hospital in Dar Es Salaam and Huruma Hospital in Moshi.
But she left these big hospitals behind and came to Kamaga to join the medical staff at Kamanga Health Centre. “I was attracted to the CBR Project in Kamanga because its main goal is to assist people with disabilities, who have been denied access to health services for so long.”
Some of the reasons that were stated to the research team conducting a feasibility study for the CBR project, identified social stigma and prejudice as some of the barriers that PWD face, in accessing health services. Lack of money and lack of transportation were the other factors.
Cedar Tanzania’s CBR project, in partnership with Interteam, aims to remove these barriers. Neema and her colleague Hemed, an Occupational Therapist, travel to the remotest part of Nyamatongo ward, to the patients themselves and offer free medical care.
“In my trips to the rural areas, I have seen many cases that have made me sad, but one of the worst cases was of a 14 year old boy with cerebral palsy. He had severe kwashiorkor (severe energy-protein malnutrition). His parents were very old. They would hide him indoors all the time because they didn’t know how to care for him properly. My colleague, who is an Occupational Therapist and I plan to do intensive follow up with this boy and his family; this will include educating his parents about what kinds of nutritious foods they should give him. We shall be recording his body weight every week too. I would really like to see this boy put on weight and thrive, despite his disability.”
The challenges of the cases that Neema faces on a daily basis do not discourage her, instead she says, “I enjoy being part of this CBR project, because I feel like I have added more experience to my medical field. The things I learned from the Comprehensive Community Based Rehabilitation in Tanzania course, (held at Kamaga Health Centre), trained us about how to best help people with disabilities, but now I am actually experiencing what we spoke about, in the real world.”
“I just feel passionate about providing people with disabilities with good, quality health services that they have been denied before now.”
Cedar Tanzania and Interteam share Neema’s passion.