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Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
Institute for Global Health
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Rural Aid Organization in Tanzania

Rural Aid Organization (RAO) is a non-profit non-governmental organization (NGO) developed with the primary goal of elevating the quality of life in rural East Africa. RAO seeks to achieve this outcome through the advancement of medical, educational and social services.

As an NGO, RAO draws from its various counterparts to provide quality surgical/medical care, critical social interventions, technical trainings/education and community services.

Services are rendered through these main areas:

  • RAO Hospital
  • RAO Women's Group
  • RAO Health Training Center
  • RAO Sport Club

RAO hospital was founded with the purpose of rendering the best-quality surgical treatment to all people in the Mara Region. RAO hospital did not have the personnel to meet the demands during that time; however, over time RAO hospital was blessed to have medical volunteers from all over the world to help alleviate some of the stress of the high medical demands. As time progressed, the rapidly growing HIV/AIDS epidemic became a prominent issue in the region. The trials of lost loved ones and orphaned relatives became a heartrending situation. RAO hospital sought out ways to suppress the negative impact of the pandemic; consequently, RAO was patented and officially registered as a NGO in 2003. In 2000, a group of women from within the community took the lead role of identifying the most vulnerable children and assisted in providing food, clothing and shelter for them. What started out as a means of caring for relatives soon became a community project. This group of social workers became known as RAO Women's Group (RAOWG).

RAO Hospital s a 50-bed facility that opened in 1996. The hospital is located in Shirati village at the root of Lake Victoria.  The hospital is registered under the Private Hospital Regulation Act with a registration number 201001. Since the inception, the hospital has provided excellent adult and pediatric medical services, major and minor surgical procedures and comprehensive reproductive health clinics. More than 20,000 patients have been seen and treated at RAO. The most frequently performed procedures are gynecological, thoracic and general abdominal surgeries. The disease spectrum includes malaria, TB, pregnancy, HTN, DM, parasites, HIV/AIDS, breast CA, PID, fibroids, hernia, AUB, diarrhea, prostate CA,  malnutrition, splenomegaly, sickle cell disease and motorbike injuries.

This opportunity lasts four to six weeks and is intended for those in general surgery, OB/GYN, internal medicine, family medicine or pediatrics.

Clinical Responsibilities

  • Rounding on surgical and medical inpatient ward patients, both children and adults
  • Assisting in surgical and non-surgical procedure
  • Staffing outpatient clinics at RAO
  • Determining what supplies RAO is most in need of and if current supplies can be improved or fixed
  • Traveling to nearby rural communities, assessing clinical needs and triaging patients based on severity of symptoms
  • Facilitating the medical education of RAO medical/physician assistant students and residents through patient encounters, talks, case presentations, community health program
  • Presenting on health-related topics for staff or patient education

Logistics

  • Self-funded trip, consider applying for grants
  • Need to fly to Mwanza, often through Dar Es Salem; flights also often require a layover in either Europe, Dubai or elsewhere in Africa
  • Paperwork: Medical license
  • VISA can be obtained upon arrival or beforehand
  • Most patients speak Swahili, though some also only speak local languages; staff speaks English; translators are available
  • Accommodation is available in Shirati, including hotels or local guest houses; food is often included in price
  • Wi-Fi is rare, and there is no Wi-Fi at the hospital; data can be purchased in-country to allow you to connect to the internet
  • Running water and electricity are available, though interruptions can occur
  • Drinking bottled water is highly encourage and easily available in Shirati

More Information

For more information, please contact the affiliated faculty member, Karin Ulstrup, MD.

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