Neema Mgana came to Pop!Tech last year as part of the African fellows program, a program that Global Voices helped organize with Sun Microsystems and the UN. She’s the leader of a remarkable AIDS treatment program in Tanzania, and was the youngest nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.
She heard Cameron Sinclair speak about Architecture for Humanity and was inspired to ask the question of what AfH might be able to do in a rural Tanzanian village, Ipuli. Ipuli is a nine hour journey from Dar Es Salaam, involving a bus to Dodoma, a train to Singuida and then travel by land.
While about 100,000 people live in Ipuli – 15,000 of them children under 5 – there’s no accessible local healthcare. The nearest hospital is 80 kilometers away, a journey that involves crossing a river that can flood dangerously. Patients sometimes arrive strapped to the back of a bicycle, or carried in a wheelbarrow. To get a referral to major hospitals, like Muhimbili hospital in Dar, patients need to visit one of these smaller clinics and get a letter of referral.
Cameron helped Neema find a pair of French architects who were willing to come and work in Ipuli. They have designed a pair of facilities – a mother/child clinic and a health training facility, which includes offices, classrooms and labs. The buildings are designed using local materials and craftsmen – wooden louvers, metal gates – and have sharply slanted roofs to collect 20,000 liters of rainwater for the center. The construction of the facility is helping train workers in the community, and is supervised by community elders, who donated 10 acres of land to the project.
The project is also being supported by a Boston-based engineering firm, Haley and Aldrich, and another Boston solar firm, Tamarack Energy, which are funding the project in part, and providing technical assistance, to allow the facility to have power and water. The generation system uses solar and wind energy – the water system pumps water into 2 10,000 liter tanks.
There’s an amazing web of partners that make this project possible. Once the project is built in Ipuli, future projects are planned for South Africa, Rwanda, Ghana, Uganda – they’ll be joined electronically to share health information and best practices across the continent. It’s an inspiring example of what Pop!Tech connections can make happen.