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Bishop’s climb aids Tanzanian women

06 September 2013

ANN CARMAN

AT 19,341 feet above sea level, Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania dwarfs the highest peak in the Malvern Hills (Worcestershire Beacon, 1394 ft), which is the terrain more typically explored by the Bishop of Dudley, the Rt Revd David Walker.

Sitting in a tent last month during his ascent of Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, with the temperature dropping to ten degrees below zero, he "prayed very hard for the strength to make it to the top". Two weeks ago, he began the five-day climb, in aid of maternity care at Berega Hospital in Tanzania, which he visited last year.

"It is miles away from any kind of tarmac-type road, and serves a very rural area," he said on Tuesday. "One of the main issues it is dealing with is women who develop complications out in these remote villages. It is a real difficulty getting them into hospital safely." Funds raised by the Kilimanjaro climb will go towards bringing earlier to hospital those at risk of such complications.

Next door to the hospital is an orphanage for those whose mothers died in childbirth. Tanzania has the 22nd-highest rate of maternal mortality in the world (almost 40 times higher than in the UK); and, despite a strong economic growth rate, it is one of the world's poorest countries in terms of income per person. Bishop Walker said that he chose to climb the mountain to reflect the "very dangerous and demanding journey those women are taking".

Of the 13 people in the climbing party (the members included teenagers and climbers in their 60s, nine made it to the summit (pictured above).

"We started at about midnight, and the first lot got up there at six, just in time for sunrise," said Bishop Walker. "I felt a huge sense of achievement, and an awareness of how difficult it had been. At the top there is less than half the oxygen [compared with] the air that we normally breathe. There is this exhilarating view looking down at the glacier below, and you think: 'I am on the roof of Africa'."

To help the group double, by Christmas, the £5000 raised to date, go to http://www.cofe-worcester.org.uk.

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