Day 47, rest day, Yabello
Yabello is pretty much a two horse town along a strip of tarmac that stretches for 6 or 7 kilometres. The Yabello motel is at a T junction at the end of the tarmac. Turn right onto the dirt and you head towards the Kenyan border. We wandered up and down the strip looking to change money, to buy peanuts and cold drinks and to look for restaurants other than the one at the Yabello motel. Got some peanuts and a snickers bar (like coke you seem to be able to get them everywhere), changed some money and found but didn’t eat in any of the local restaurants. The bank was a crazy chaotic place. Lots of guards with big guns of course. And lots of people who just seemed to be hanging out like in an old fashioned barber shop – sitting on chairs in the shade. They could have been waiting for service. Or maybe not. They had one of those money counting machines behind the counter. You put the paper money in the top. It shuffl3s and counts them, gives you a number and returns them in a neat pile out the bottom. Not here. The guy behind the counter put a stack of money into the machine while we were waiting to get our money changed. If you have ever been to Africa you will know that some of the paper money is older than Methusela. It is worn almost beyond reading. It is dirty. It is often stapled or taped together. (The irony is that they won’t accept any but the crispest, newest $US bills in exchange.) So when the clerk loaded the machine with this stack of old bills and asked it to count them, the machine did what any self-respecting machine would do. It spit them out. All over the bank. A tornado of Ethiopian Burr flew everywhere. Maybe that’s why all those people were sitting patiently on chairs in the shade.
As with most rest days, it was a day to do chores. Get the laundry done. Clean the bike. And so on. It was almost five by the time I had been into town, come back and done all the chores. When bedtime is seven, that doesn’t leave much time in the day. And after waiting an hour and a half for yet another plate of spaghetti and meat sauce there was even less time.
We only had two more days in Ethiopia. Most people were glad of this. While it is a fascinating and I many ways a beautiful country, the kids had spoiled it for many. Off our bikes they were not that different than kids in most other African countries – curious, wanting to talk to you and often to touch you. But basically friendly. On our bikes they are a menace – aggressive and casually and unthinkingly violent. But we have been told that as we approach Kenya, they become less of an issue. We hope so.
Being interviewed for the Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania fundraising video
When I was a kid we didn’t have digital video technology. You couldn’t film a news item at 5:30 and have it on the 6 o’clock news – unless it was live. Film had to be developed and edited. So on the 6 o’clock news you would often get the first cut of the story and then be told by the newsreader: ‘film at 11’. That’s kind of how I feel today. Yesterday we got the story. I am now waiting for the film at 11.
Dr Julie Makani, Founder of the Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania
We spent yesterday with the people at the Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania here is Dar es Salaam. The whole team was there. We interviewed Drs. Julie Makani, Deo Soka and Edward Kija. We visited the research labs. We had the opportunity to visit with a mother and her 4 year old child, who suffers from the disease. And we witnessed first hand the need for a dedicated day patient treatment centre.
Our goal is to use the Tour d’Afrique as an opportunity to create awareness of the disease, which is particularly prevalent in African countries that have a high incedence of malaria – Tanzania has the 4th highest number of people suffering form sickle cell disease in the world – and to raise US$50,000 to build and equip a 12 bed day treatment centre for sickle cell sufferers in Tanzania.
In Tanzania up to 11,000 children are born every year with this inherited disease. Due to lack of treatment as many as 90% of them will die before they are two. With early diagnosis and treatment they can expect to live a much longer life. Some live productive lives to the age of 60. At the moment sickle cell patients are treated at a general purpose clinic at the Muhimbili hospital only two days a week. A dedicated day treatment centre, open every day, could potentially increase treatment capacity by over 500%.
Mother and ill child
I was very fortunate to have some expert help filming the work of the Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania. Denise Donlon, the Canadian broadcaster, was in Tanzania after having just filmed a documentary for War Child in northern Uganda on access to justice. She directed the day’s filming and did the interviewing. Chris Morgan, an experienced South African documentary film maker recently moved to Tanzania after having spent the last 5 years living in and filming documentaries in Nigeria. Chris did all the filming and will do the editing.
Both Denise and Chris contributed their time and expertise for nothing. I can’t thank them enough.
We hope to have a short film finished and up on this blog by July 11 – and instructions on how to donate. Look for it.