Tanzania to offer liver transplant services

DAR ES SALAAM:  TANZANIA is set to record another milestone in the health sector following President Samia Suluhu Hassan’s visit to India, as one of the signed agreements will enable the Muhimbili National Hospital (MNH) to start offering liver transplant services.

This will be the first time ever the country provides transplant service involving liver, intensifying efforts to become medical tourism hub in the Eastern, Central and Southern Africa.

In two years of President Samia, efforts to achieve a goal of making the country a tourism hub has been a top agenda, said Health Minister Ummy Mwalimu   yesterday, adding that last year alone the country served a total of 6,472 patients from Comoro, Zambia, Malawi, Uganda and Kenya.

Speaking yesterday during a media briefing at the State House in Dar es Salaam on the results of the President Samia’s visit to India, Health Minister Mwalimu said in two years the country will have started providing liver transplant service.

Ms Mwalimu said the development comes after the MNH signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Indian BLK-Max Super Speciality Hospital during the visit.

The agreement will enable experts from the Indian hospital to build capacity to local medical specialists at the national hospital.

“We are going to carry out liver transplant here in Tanzania. These are the fruits of the President Samia’s visit to India. This will not take long because we (Tanzania) already have super specialist doctors. It will approximately take us between one to two years before we start offering the service because our super specialists will participate in fellowships which will involve exchange programmes with Indian experts,” she stated.

Minister Mwalimu was optimistic that provision of liver transplant service locally will significantly reduce the burden on Tanzanians seeking such service in India.

“Currently, Tanzanians go to India and in doing so they have been struggling to raise between 45,000 or 50,000 US dollars for liver transplant at the BLK-Max Super Speciality Hospital,” she said.

Ms Mwalimu said the decision by Tanzania to introduce kidney transplant service brought relief to many in terms of cost reduction from 30,000 US dollars charged abroad to 15,000 US dollars which is charged in the country.

Apart from signing the MoUs with the BLK-Max Super Speciality Hospital, the government also signed two agreements, with the Rainbow Children Hospital and the Hester Pharmaceuticals Ltd.

According to the minister, the agreements also considered the issue of telemedicine or digital health.

“In provision of healthcare services, the issue of digital health or telemedicine is part of service provision,” she stressed.

“We already have telemedicine unit at the MNH which can collaborate with their counterparts in India. We have also introduced telemedicine centres at some regional referral hospitals and Zonal referral hospitals whereby our experts at the MNH, MOI and JKCI build capacity among professionals in regions,” she added.

The minister said the ministry also got an Indian investor who will   establish pharmaceutical industry in the country,   making drugs more available at affordable price because of reduced logistics costs.

On his part, Agriculture Minister Hussein Bashe spoke on pigeon peas market in India where Tanzania signed agreement to export minimum quarter of 200,000 tonnes of peas.

“When we find market for agricultural produce, we actually protect farmer’s income. In that sense getting more market for pigeon peas assures us of increasing farmer’s income,” he said.

He said India’s demand for pigeon peas stands at five million tonnes, but it produces between 3.6 and 4 million tonnes, forcing the Asian nation to source the remaining amount from outside.

Commenting, Water Minister Jumaa Aweso said India has been a key partner in implementing the project that involves tapping water from Lake Victoria for use in Tabora, Igunga, Nzega and Shinyanga regions.

He said the trip to India served yet another opportunity for extending further the project by bringing Lake Victoria water to Singida and Dodoma to address water shortage in the two regions.

He further noted that India would help build capacity on technology to detect water leakage and measures to contain to the problem.

“We need to have technology that will help detect water leakages, including building capacity to our water engineers so that they can quickly respond to   the challenge to address water loss,” he said.

Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation Minister January Makamba argued that India honoured President Samia with the State Visit, which was exceptional.

“This year India has rolled out a red carpet for three state visits, one of which was for President Samia. The state visit organised for President Samia was quite exceptional indicating that India respects Tanzania,” Mr Makamba argued.

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