December 16th 2012 - fresh news from South Africa...

A report arrived today from Jenny who's currently in South Africa...

We've been especially focused on the RCT in Uganda because it holds the potential key to wider treatment implementation. But possibly what has been quietly smouldering away down in this South African township is in its own way just as important. It certainly feels like it could be because, while the scientists in Makerere may be able to prove the scientific pudding of efficacy, these extraordinary carers in Nyanga may be proving a very special pudding of their own, one of African "ubuntu" infused with moxa!

(By the way, the notes [in the square brackets..] are to help you better get the gist...)

"The SACLA visit was really great... [SACLA is the "South African Christian Leadership Assembly" http://www.sacla.za.net/ which was founded in 1979 to fight for the welfare of black South Africans during Apartheid. Moxafrica has been working with SACLA since 2011 in Nyanga, one of the huge sprawling high density townships on the Cape Flats.]

"On thursday they took me to a support group in an area called Philippi where 3 of the carers are working. [Philippi is another township similar to Nyanga. In each township there are some very deprived areas in the heart of what are already hugely deprived townships.]

"Twice a week they've been getting patients to come and talk about moxa, and they cook them a really good lunch which they provide from their own pockets!! [These carers are the front-line of health care in Nyanga, paid around $40 a month]. It's quite amazing what they are doing. This week about 30 patients came, and they were all given a good nutritious meal. Many of them are so hungry, they have not eaten properly for 3 days.

"Of those I saw, 18 had TB but some of the others had come to ask about getting moxa for friends or family members with TB. There were several mentions of MDR-TB (there's a lot of it in Philippi), and I really think we're getting to the people who most desperately need help. I got a great film of Thoko describing the support group idea and how the carers feed the patients - and appealing for any help they can get to support this. I seriously wonder if we could give a bit extra to help, because the meal really attracts the patients to go to the group and if they are fed better they are more able to comply with TB treatment.

"Many of the patients were already using moxa and some stood up to tell everyone their experiences and to encourage others. Then lots of the others wanted to try it.

"Thoko is absolutely for this support group idea and is trying to get the other carers to organise them in different areas. [Thoko Mtulu is an extraordinary women who is the SACLA Project Leader in Nyanga. She is a veteran from the Apartheid days, with Tutu-like aplomb and dignity, and has had TB herself.]

"We visited the comunity centre in KTC [KTC is another township area within Nyanga] yesterday to ask if we could do one there but they have no room, so we're thinking of getting one going in the training room at SACLA . It's so much easier for the carers too if all patients come together in one place.

"Yesterday I went out with 3 of them to an even worse place called Barcelona [whereas in the other townships we're visited there are visible streets, and access to electricity and variable access to water and sewage systems, in Barcelona there is none of this] - no houses, just tiny shacks and filthy paths between them with open sewage flows and shit of all descriptions everywhere. It was a huge area and we wandered about for ages getting lost (which was I have to say a bit unnerving) looking for the portacabin that is their community centre. I just can't tell you how grim it was, but if you remember that police station we went to with Allen in Kampala [which was probably the most shocking places we have ever been to], it was on a par but worse. Plus it was well into the 30s and there was no shade, I felt as if we were frying in an open toilet.

"We only actually saw one patient there as most were not in, and the carers say they have a lot of trouble working there.

"I feel very encouraged by the work and attitude of the SACLA crew - they are really keen to continue and I'm sure they are doing their best.

"At the end of the day I did see all the carers apart from Nomvuyelolo and they were absolutely thrilled with their presents and spent ages looking at the cards ( I have a nice bit of film to show you!) and were pleased to see the photos of you both. They were especially happy that I included a photo of Zandile, who they miss very much. They told me she had a huge funeral, people came from very far away."