The tsetse fly problem

In the beginning of the 1950s Haydom was an uninhabited bush. Tsetse flies made the area uninhabitable for people, but the area was fruitful: there was an extensive animal kingdom and dry, but luxuriant vegetation.

Fifty years later, Haydom is a village with one of Tanzania best hospitals ,schools and education at collage level, churches and assembly houses, stores, guest house and trade, a network of roads that connects the town to a large surrounding area, their own water supply, electricity and air strip and en elite of educated humans that are engaged in further develop their town and country.

It is the Haydom Mountain that has given the hospital its name. The name Haydom comes from the local datog language and has the mearning of red oxen. The Detog people needed a name for the surrounding mountains, so that they could tell the others where they had been with their cattle. The mountain was often avoided, as there was said to be a curse over it; the one who took his cattle inn to the bush area around the mountain, could suddenly lose the whole herd. People going up the mountain would also be affected and could catch a fever, headache and dive of in unwillingly sleepiness, tiredness and sometimes death. The disease was known as the sleeping disease, and made the area remain inhabitable.

It was a curse from forefathers or spirits that haunted the area, but tsetse flies that had settled down in the forest and bushes surrounding the mountain. The solution to the problem was easier than first believed; If you cut down the forest, the flies would disappear as well. And so it was that the Norwegian Lutheran Mission was able to build a hospital at Haydom.

The First Surgery

Haydom Lutheran Hospital’s first surgery occurred before the official opening. It was located in the outpatient clinic, because it was the only house with a roof. The room was filled with boxes with equipment that wasn’t unpacked yet and the improvised surgery room and patient room had their windows open and the walls were unfinished. There were no beds and no tables, and nothing was sterilized. This is how Haydom Lutheran Hospital actually was opened.

It was a leopard attack that was the reason for the sudden opening of the hospital. The leopard is the most dangerous animal in the high lands of Tanzania, and suddenly one of them had been inside one of the houses in town; inside the home of Ganipandi and his family. It had killed thirteen goats. Ganipandi and his sons had tried to kill it, and therefore got attacked themselves. They were so badly hurt that according to experience, they would all die. While the rest of the men in town went hunting for the leopard, Dr. Olsen went to Ganipandi. The four men were such a bad shape that they had to get surgery, even though the hospital wasn’t finished yet. The town’s women carried the men to the improvised operating room. The doctor found his surgery equipment as the crowd started cheering outside; they had killed the leopard.

And while more and more people gathered outside the hospital, Dr. Olsen folded his hands, bent his head and said a prayer, a little prayer. It went something like this; “Dear God. Help me to rescue him. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Then the rumor started to spread: There had come a man to Haydom. A man who could cure the sick. A man who had rock houses full of the Lutheran’s medicine. He could save all lives, cure all diseases; fight all curses and evil spirits. His name was Dr. Olsen. And people started their journey to Haydom

The Official Opening

In 1963 was the administration of the Hospital handed over to the local church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania (ELCT). The hospital is under the Medical Board which in turn is elected by the General Assembly of ELCT, Mbulu Synod

After an obvious need to expand, the Lutheran World Federation, OXFAM (UK) and Brot die Welt(Germany) funded the extension to a capacity of 250 beds. The hospital was officially opened by the then President, J.K. Nyerere. Since then, the hospital has expanded with a modern building for laboratory and pediatric ward (Lena Ward). Today HLH has a total of 420 beds, but most of the time the number of inpatients is more than that. The hospital has been part of the Tanzanian central health plan since the official opening in 1967

More information about the history of HLH can be read in the book “The Haydom Adventure” – in Norwegian, English or Swahili, that can be bought through the non-profit organization Friends of Haydom or at the bookshop of Haydom Lutheran Hospital (only the Swahili version TSH 10.000 and the English version TSH 25.000). The ISBN number of the English version is 978-9987-614-37-0.