A false diagnosis of cancer convinced Dr. Susan Hughmanick that she needed to find an ultrasound machine for Dareda Kati. Susan, one of Karimu’s Board Directors, nearly left the Tanzanian village last August believing that Daniel Amma’s wife had cancer. Only at the last minute did she learn—after several days of grief—that the bleeding had resulted not from cancer, but from a miscarriage. Daniel, a dedicated teacher who has played a central role in building Ufani Primary School’s astonishing record of academic success, rejoiced upon learning that he and his wife had suffered a lesser evil. And Susan devoted much of the succeeding year to acquiring the ultrasound machine which would spare other Dareda Kati women the terrors of similar misdiagnoses.
Susan finally took delivery of a donated ultrasound just a few days ago. Unfortunately, it was a foreign-made machine, previously allowed into the United States on condition of its restriction to veterinary use so that it would not compete in the market against American-made machines. Although an expert servicer of ultrasounds did his best, he couldn’t manage to reprogram it for conversion to use on human beings.
Advocates for poor countries often complain about how rich countries that push “free trade” on poor ones routinely and hypocritically protect their domestic producers, tilting the playing field against aspiring competitors from poor countries. Yet the objections typically allude to agriculture rather than high-tech manufactures like ultrasound machines, protection of which has in this case inflicted some collateral damage on the women of Dareda Kati.
However, we came to suspect that the sophisticated nature of this machine might have made its operation unsustainable in rural Africa. Even if the reprogramming effort had succeeded, could Dr. Sadock Wilson, of the Dareda Kati Town public health clinic, keep it in good running order?
So for now, this is a story of disappointment. When the Karimu volunteers leave for Tanzania next Monday, we will not have an ultrasound machine in tow. But the expectant mothers of Dareda Kati continue to need the better prenatal care that an ultrasound would bring. We’ll try again for next year’s trip.
As for our attempt to supply two hundred Dareda Kati families with fuel-efficient, clean-burning cooking stoves, I can report much happier news of only modest delay. It turns out that purchase and collection of the stoves during our time in the village until mid-August might not be possible. First we will need to get the name, place of birth, address, and phone number of the head of every household to which we’ll give a stove—even if the address is simply the village or subvillage name and the phone number is that of the nearest neighbor who happens to own a cellphone. We will also need to bus a handful of responsible and literate villagers to Karatu, a few hours away, for training by the distributor in stove use and in registering each stove and its unique serial number with the recipient.
This is because an American for-profit company will subsidize the low price paid by Karimu, but only for the purpose of earning carbon credits. To qualify for the credits, the company must retain the right to random inspections to verify proper use of the stoves, which would of course require knowing who uses them.
The chance that any home in Dareda Kati would be visited by an inspector is slim. Nevertheless, it’s a formality without which the company simply won’t subsidize purchase—and the subsidy will lower Karimu’s cost by about five thousand dollars.
I expect that making the necessary arrangements to get the subsidy will take a while and nudge our purchase date back by a few weeks. So if it has to happen in September or October rather than August, so be it. At least from that point forward, the stoves will bring some dramatic improvements to life in the village.—Don Stoll