Africa 2012 Photography Work

“The health center is my home and family”

Photos and story from the visit to the Health Center in Changara, Tete province. Published on the UNICEF Mozambique website.
© UNICEF Mozambique/2012/C.Bach

Ladies dressed in colourful traditional capulana fabrics are standing in a long line outside of the main health center in the district of Changara in Tete province in Mozambique. They are accompanied by their children and are today attending the monthly health control where their babies will be weighed, measured and checked for diseases.

Little Debora Inácio is four months old and is being held by her grandmother. The mother stands next to them, explaining why they have come today. “We come here once a month to check that everything is okay with the girl. It is very hot sometimes and we have to wait for a long time, but we are very thankful that the health centre takes care of us and our children,” she says, showing Debora’s health card with charts showing whether the girl has the weight adequate to her age.

Almost 200.000 people live in Changara and this is the only Health Center where a licensed medical doctor and admission facilities can be found. Dr. Fausto Muzila is the young doctor that is taking care of the entire district and supervising nurses and other health professionals. He has some support in his work from medical technicians and 12 smaller health clinics, but not even this main health center has advanced enough facilities to take care of some of the most acute and severe cases.

“We do what we can here in Changara, but when somebody needs a surgery after a car accident or when a mother is delivering a baby and acutely needs a caesarian, we simply cannot help them,” Dr. Muzila explains.

Patients in need of urgent medical attention that require surgery or x-ray are sent to Tete, the capital of the province, 100km away from Changara. “It takes more than one hour to reach Tete so it happens that patients die in transport just because they don’t reach the hospital on time, this is very sad,” Dr. Muzila says.

A bit further away, a team of health workers are showing young mothers how to prepare nutritious food for their children from locally grown ingredients such as corn, peanuts and moringa leaves, a very vitamin-rich plant that also contains magnesium and proteins. The mothers are informed that they only need to feed their babies with breast milk during the first six months, as it contains all nutrients the babies need, contrary to the belief in some of the communities.

Carmita, a 19 year old mother, is watching the presentation with her four month old baby, little Beyonce. “This is my first baby and now I will be able to cook food that is good and healthy for her,” she smiles, letting the girl taste some of the mash that the health workers have prepared.

HIV and AIDS related symptoms and diseases, malaria and diarrhea are the main reasons people come to the health centre. Lately however, after a large distribution of mosquito nets in all the communities, the numbers of cases of malaria are less than half of what they used to be.

“The mosquito nets have made a huge difference in the communities,” Dr. Fausto explains. “Now I only work 24 hours a day,” he jokes, smiling and pointing out that he has dedicated his entire life to working at the health center. “I don’t have my own family, I wouldn’t have time. Besides, the patients, the work I am doing here, it is all very rewarding. The health center is my home and family”.


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