Happy New Year and welcome to 2023!!
We are now t-minus 25 days before I leave for Tanzania! Time is flying!
My visa has been approved, and just last week my husband, "Lance," 13-year old daughter, M’Kayla and I went downtown Chicago to consult with the travel nurse professional at Northwestern hospital. We received Hepatitis and Tetanus vaccinations, along with
several prescriptions: antimalarial tablets, and medication for altitude sickness for me. We are now prepared for our arrival on African soil. Ya'll, it's gotten real!
The vaccinations required when traveling to East Africa will produce antibodies to prevent us from attracting rare foreign diseases that could potentially infect our blood. These vaccines inject small amounts of low grade versions of the viruses in our system to prevent infections while visiting this country. Some diseases in Tanzania such as malaria, dengue, leishmaniasis, and African sleeping sickness are spread by bugs and mosquitos. These are serious and sometimes fatal diseases and there's no vaccination available. However, we were given antimalarial antibiotics and precautions. We are to be diligent at avoiding mosquito bites by covering up with clothing such as long sleeves and long trousers, especially after sunset. We were strongly advised to use insect repellents on exposed skin and, when necessary, to sleep under a mosquito net. Since I will be out in the mountains climbing for seven days, and sleeping in tents at night, I have found clothing with insect shield technology designed to repel ticks and mosquitoes. I never knew this was a thing, until now.
In addition to insect-borne diseases, another extremely important factor for us is the protection against water-borne diseases and contaminated food. We were urged to only drink bottled water and to not add ice to our drinks. Following this guidance will help avoid diseases such as cholera, diarrhea, dysentery, hepatitis, typhoid and polio, which are all linked to a risk of infection and disease where clean water, sanitation and hygiene services are lacking. We also need to maintain a good standard of hygiene because there is minimal access to clean drinking water. This is crazy! I realized how I've taken complete advantage of having easy access to safe water and yet, there are countries like Tanzania that are struggling to avoid contaminated or chemically polluted drinking water.
Inadequate management of urban, industrial and agricultural wastewater means that the drinking-water of hundreds of millions of people is dangerously contaminated with a natural presence of chemicals that are detrimental to a person's health, including arsenic and fluoride. Other chemicals, such as lead, may also be elevated in water as a result of leaching from water supply components that come in contact with drinking-water.
Families walk miles for water that makes them sick, and they spend their income on medication, and struggle to send their children to school because of the global water crisis that has impacted at least 771 million people—1 in 10 people—on the planet today. Millions of mothers and their children drink from ponds and swamps, and nearly half of the population of Tanzania live without access to clean water. In addition, three quarters of the country doesn’t have a safe place to go to the bathroom because they lack access to a toilet!
Thousands of people die each year from diarrhea as a result of unsafe drinking-water, resulting in sanitation issues, including hand hygiene. Diarrhea is largely preventable, yet, deaths of thousands of children under 5 years old could be avoided each year. The need to choose between using water to wash hands or drink would no longer be an issue if these risk factors were addressed.
Recently, we experienced a very temporary water shutdown after a water main break and I couldn't take it. We woke up to no running water for all of a half day maybe, and I balked at using bottled water to wash my hands and brush my teeth. The last of the water that was left in the toilet tank was enough for one flush. I can't fathom living like this from day to day. I expect to turn on the water at any given moment and see water stream from the faucet. I also expect to freely choose my desired temperature making the choice between hot, cold or warm anytime; to flush, cook, bathe and shower at my discretion. After reading about the lack of clean water in other countries, this truly humbled me.
Everyone has the right to sufficient, continuous, safe, and affordable water for personal use. Readily available water is important for public health, whether it is used for drinking, domestic use, food production or recreational purposes. For those of us like me who wish to visit this country, there are so many precautions to keep in mind to avoid sickness and even death; warnings that we don't even think about at home. Water is not simply a vital need for our bodies, it is also a resource we benefit from every day. We not only use it for the things I listed above but our food, clothes, mobile phones, cars and books all use water in their production. We use water to build our homes, schools and roads, and to heat buildings and cool power plants. With the electricity we generate from its movement, we light our cities and our homes. I recently read this excerpt in an environmental article, "Water is a means to connect and move people and goods. It offers a natural transport network around the globe, connecting not only coastal cities but also inland cities along navigable rivers, enabling global trade. Our T-shirts, coffee beans or laptops produced in the Americas, Africa or Asia might be transported to Europe by ships." In other words, water is present in every aspect of our lives.
On a hot summer day, we swim at the beach or go for a stroll by a lake to cool off. As hot as it can get in Africa, could you imagine not having access to water? Most of us are fortunate enough to enjoy the luxury of having water at our immediate disposal, but not all of us. Clean water is life!
I was so moved by these heartbreaking facts that I want to contribute to the efforts of providing clean water for the people of Tanzania. Therefore, along with raising funds to end Alzheimer's disease, I've decided to donate part of the funds raised to lifewater.org and you can help too.
In the next blog, I will talk about my training highs and lows, prepping for the various climate changes, and I will invite you along to help me with my packing list. Importantly, I hope to be ready to share with you the YouTube vlog channel that I am creating so that you can virtually experience every day of the seven day hike with me. I’m getting more excited as days pass in anticipation for the journey of a lifetime. I hope you stay connected as we get closer to take off!