Mbalibali Initiative: The Kuria Tribe of Tanzania

The story of  Mbalibali. 

Mbalibali is remote and its people among the poorest in Tanzania, earning around $1 per day. There are an estimated 10,000 Kuria living in the area.  Many women must walk up to 8 km and in some cases up to 20 km for maternal care. Pre-natal care is, therefore, uncommon. Only rarely do trained medical personnel attend births. Sanitation is primitive and running water non-existent.

Maternal mortality in childbirth in Tanzania is one of the highest in the world. In one year for example, more than 13,000 women died in Tanzania. The Tanzanian maternal mortality rate is nearly 100 times that of the U.S.

Survival under circumstances attending unsanitary birth often brings infections and deaths. 

In November 2016 I visited the village and met with John, the mayor, Sarah, a teacher and the regional doctor and the 2 nurses. I toured the dispensary – a 2 room structure infested with bats where the nurses where delivering babies with their flashlights and a partially built structure that the local people tried to build themselves.  They had neither the money nor the skills, only desire. They ask if I could help them and I said yes. The initiative to finish the clinic structure, rehab the medical dispensary, staff homes and provide basic medical supplies was conceived from here. 

How to Build Medical infrastructure from in Africa

I knew nothing of anything about construction, medical infrastructure, supplies or logistics. What I did have was enthusiasm, and contacts on the ground in Tanzania. In particular, Promise Shayo, my long time guide, another guide, Lukas and John and Sarah from the village. As it happened, I  could not have found anyone more capable and committed than this group. 


What started as a blank slate for what some may call a naïve girl from Chicago has come full circle.  Since that November day, we have completed the clinic, rebuilt the staff homes, installed solar panels, indoor plumbing, replaced windows and roofs. We have supplied basic equipment and supplies such as beds, needles, gauzes, scalpels, antibacterials, and most recently have delivered 2000 clean birthing kits to the women of the village. This project has been self-funded and continues to be today.   The next project includes supplying reuseble period pads to the H.S. girls of the village.    

As the old saying goes it takes a village….