When I have been asked to make a wallpainting by the Rotary club of Dar es-Salaam for the new Pediatric Oncology Ward at Muhimbili National Hospital, I accepted right away because I knew it would be an extraordinary human experience. On the 3d of August, the official opening day, the ribbon has been cut in front of my wall paint by Jane Goodall herself!
It took approximately two weeks to finish this underwater landscape. During the first week, I worked in my studio to create different type of art printings: stencils (for graffiti), woodcut and lino prints, pen drawings and papercut.
The second week, I worked in situ at the ward, painting the wall and sticking my artworks on it in the manner of street art .
It was an amazing experience. At the beginning, the children were looking at us as strangers. Then they started to become used to our presence, smiling at us knowingly. Everyday they came to sit behind us to see the changes in the artwork: laughing, singing, waiting to be part of it and even sometimes falling asleep.
In 2009, childhood cancer survival in Tanzania was only 12%! Although there was a facility for children with cancer there was severe over-crowding in the wards and it did not have adequate medical facilities for cancer treatment. Some children did not survive the cancer due to cross infections they were exposed to due to over crowding where there were 3-4 kids to a bed.
Furthermore, nowadays, most childhood cancer are curable if detected early enough and properly treated with good medical care.
That is how the Rotary decided to help by building a new ward. Thanks to them, the children have a bright new ward of 400 sqmts with 23 beds and with 5 isolation rooms. Every bed has been provided with piped oxygen and this means no child will have to be at the mercy of decision making on who will receive oxygen in times of need.
But the biggest part of the work is of course due to the excellent care and services given by Doctors and nurses, which raised the childhood cancer survival rate in Tanzania up to 55% (still well below where it could and should be when the average is around 80% in more developed countries).