A letter from Tanzania

My friend in Tanzania (whose name I won’t use until he has given me permission to do so) sent me a letter recently thanking me for the birthday gift I had sent him. He had turned sixty and is an active and enthusiastic man who calls me brother although we have only met during the visit I described in my previous post. Although he is only 2 years older than me my friend insists I address him with ‘shikamoo’, a form of greeting acknowledging respect for an elder.

The filial relationship has come about because he and my Father communicated through letters and email for over thirty years. He had visited my parents back in the nineties and my Father had been to Nachingwea once. All this has come about through the link group that has been forged between the churches of St Andrews in Nachingwea and St Andrews in Stapleford near Cambridge, England. The link in Stapleford organises fund raising events that help the start up and continuation of projects benefiting the health and education of the community. The communication between Nachingwea and my Father were primarily to send information back to Stapleford about how the projects were progressing.

A surprising statistic

In his letter my friend included the always important record of rainfall over recent months but what really grabbed my attention, after his account of birthday celebrations, was his expression of gratitude to god for having enabled him to reach the age of sixty. Not only has he already exceeded the average life expectancy in Tanzania by 5 years, but disturbingly, this expectancy is reducing to forty five. The reasons are, not only HIV and Malaria which are well reported, but also heart disease. Now, in Europe and the U.S. heart disease is largely associated with lifestyle imbalances like excess fat and sugar in our diet and lack of exercise. In Nachingwea, where walking and cycling is more common than driving and working on the land is everyday activity for most, exercise is certainly not deficient and my experience of the diet is based on eating fresh ingredients with plenty of fruit and vegetables. What is the cause of the heart disease?

Nachingwea, Tanzania, August 2013

Nachingwea, Tanzania, August 2013

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