We traveled up country to Mwanza, Tanzania’s second largest city, to visit and meet with senior staff at the Bugando Medical Centre. The hospital, like so many across east Africa, is overburdened and understaffed, and serves a regional population of 14 million people. With a dearth of health services in the Lake Victoria region, many patients travel a great distance to Mwanza from neighboring countries Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo for treatment.
Over the last two years, Bugando has made the first steps to become Tanzania’s second center to offer oncology services. In collaboration with the IAEA and WHO, medical staff have received training in South Africa and Italy, a community cancer registry has been established, and plans have been drawn up for buildings to house radiation therapy equipment.
As we made our way to the oncology department, we passed a ward where a group of women and children quietly milled about. Some seated in bed, some standing, most receiving care for cancers of the breast and cervix.
We were introduced to the group, and within minutes, the room metamorphosed from cancer ward to fashion studio. Each of the women stood proudly before our cameras, wanting to be photographed.
“Me too! Me too!” they exclaimed, as we moved about the room, capturing each of them in moments that reflect a solemn strength and a frank openness that lays bare their struggle with cancer. They wanted to put a public face on their private battle, and for that, it was one of the most moving portions of the trip. As a small token of thanks, I’ve since printed copies of their photographs and sent them to Mwanza.
You can view a selection of their photographs below: