Historical Background

Dr Herbert Watschinger studied medicine in the early ninety fifties. After graduating from medical school he studied theology to enable him to also give spiritual care. After he became a parish priest in Linz, Austria, he made a large trip to East Africa in 1960. As a result of this trip he met Sister Guida Reichhör who insisted that he would come to Loliondo to start a hospital among the Maasai. Up to that moment there were – besides traditional practices – no health care services available in the district. Dr Watschinger accepted this challenging mission and started to mobilize the Austrian community to assist him in the establishment of a hospital for the Maasai. Although doctor Watschinger was living in the parish in the border village Loliondo, he chose to establish the hospital about 8 kilometers more to the south at Wasso. He decided to build it next to a natural water source where the pastoralistic Maasai were coming to give water to their cattle (and this is also why the hospital has also been acting as the protector of water sources). On 2 September 1964 the hospital was opened.

From Wasso Hospital Dr Watschinger was also serving the Watemi in Sale Division. But sometimes the Palalet river was making transport between Sale and Wasso, 68 kilometers apart, impossible. Therefore the Watemi requested Dr Watschinger for assistance to build a maternity clinic there. Dr Watschinger agreed to do that and in 1973 the Digodigo Clinic was opened.

Dr Watschingers ambition did not stop there as he realized that the people in the very south of the district were still poorly served. For long time he had been serving the population around Endulen by performing flight clinics to that site, but in February 1976 he managed to open his third health care facility in the district, Endulen Hospital.

Until the death of Dr Watschinger, financial resources were mainly provided by private and church related organizations in Austria. After this the Austrian government took over the majority (90%) of the funding for the hospital. Austrovieh, later called Austroproject, was entrusted to act as Austrian government project holder for the three Watschinger hospitals.

In 1995 Wasso Hospital has been officially designated as the district hospital. This designation is based on an agreement between the Tanzanian Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MOHSW) and the Catholic Archdiocese of Arusha, who is the legal owner of Wasso Hospital. This is entitling the hospital to receive government grants for staff, drugs and some other charges. Since that time the percentage wise financial contribution of the Tanzanian government to the hospital has increased. From the year 2000 the Austrian government started to cut down their contributions to the hospital as the Austrian government wanted to focus on other countries for their development aid. From 2005 onwards, the support from the Austrian government completely ceased, which caused large financial problems at the facilities.

In the first decade of the 21st centenary the hospital continued grew quickly in correspondence with the increase of the population of the district. This is for example reflected in the raise of the amount of beds available at the hospital to 155. The most recent increase in the number of beds was made after moving into the three new wards in the summer of 2007. These wards were build in the preceding years with financial assistance from the Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates.

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