Selian Hospital is nestled in the hills in the northeastern part of Tanzania. Selian was established by Lutheran missionaries in the 1950s and has grown from a small dispensary into a 120-bed hospital serving Arusha and the large surrounding rural area. It has now transitioned to management by native Tanzanian doctors and nursing staff, but is still supported by the Lutheran Church.
The hospital provides life-saving services that are desperately needed in this area of the world, including treatment of malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. Selian also offers inpatient and outpatient services, pediatrics, general and specialty surgery, obstetrics, maternal and child health, hospice and orphan care. Selian Lutheran Hospice is a palliative care program that cares for patients with HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and cancers, providing medications, basic food supplies and social and spiritual support.
Many rural children are crippled and have access to corrective surgery through the services of Selian Hospital. Some are born with congenital deformities, others suffer burns from falling into cooking fires, and many more become crippled through drinking from wells with excessively high natural fluoride content. This fluoride can soften developing bones, which deforms children’s legs so that they are unable to walk and suffer severe pain. Selian surgeons operate on approximately 300 of these children annually. They come into the hospital unable to walk and grow into productive family and community members.
Selian Hospital is aided in its ministry to the children of northern Tanzania by the rehabilitative services of Plaster House. Plaster House was founded in 2008 when it became clear that children who returned home immediately after surgery did not get the care they required – they were malnourished, and often their plasters (casts) were cut off before they could fully recover. Plaster House provides a home away from home for children while they become healthy enough for surgery and then during their recovery. Their Outreach team is working to change the overall perception of children with disabilities, that they are not cursed, they should not be hidden – and those who are appropriate should be brought in for treatment.
In 2009, a new hospital, Arusha Lutheran Medical Centre (ALMC) opened in downtown Arusha. ALMC offers general, specialty, and emergency care in a modern, full-service, for-profit facility. One of the exciting services at ALMC is their neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), one of the few places in Tanzania (and Africa as a whole), where premature infants can be treated by specially trained doctors and nurses. Profits from ALMC help support Selian Hospital.
Both Selian Hospital and ALMC lack sufficient numbers of trained nurses for the many demands of health care in Tanzania. So in 2014, the Arusha Lutheran Medical Centre School of Nursing opened in rented facilities, offering a 2-year certificate program in nursing and a 1-year course in community health technician. But in Tanzania, to offer a degree program in nursing, a school must have its own facility. When we visited in 2016, ALMC was in the process of looking for a site for such a facility, and we were challenged to raise $70,000 to build one classroom or dormitory building. We met this goal by the end of 2017, and progress is ongoing at this time to create the new nursing school.