A sure sign that you might be getting to grips with a new language is to express yourself coherently when angry (and of course understanding local jokes). Well this morning Lisa, our charity manager, is displaying her disapproval of the freelance driver we have hired to get us around. You see, we are marooned without a car since the rains were so violent and washed away the bridges between the town (where our charity truck happened to be) and the HQ in the bush. Since vehicles are so scarce we have to hire what we can to monitor the projects over the course of the time we are here. He has us over a barrel, by the short and curlies, stuffed. We need transport, he has it. He has asked for a vast sum of money to take us around in his quite frankly, shockingly knackered truck. It has one front seat with a door that regularly swings open, no windows, no windscreen wipers, etc. I could keep listing what it does not have, but it’s simpler to say there is an engine in a heap of rusting metal.
Lisa’s wrath is down to his total lack of friendliness, ability to show enthusiasm or even a modicum of ‘politesse’ towards his passengers and the fact we all know he is ripping us off. To add insult to injury – this morning he is LATE. Well, we are impressed and our heart-of-gold charity manager displays her strength of character to the amused and slightly shocked team. It’s a good lesson in a place where a foreigner could so easily be taken for a ride. The message is out; “Don’t mess with Lisa”. The fury is fair in the circumstances and results in a slight attitude change which we all welcome.
We arrive in the local town and head straight for the hospital. The Heath Department in Pemba have asked the charity to fund a new wing to the hospital. Mucojo hospital covers the needs of the 16 communities in the Quirimbas National Park that we work with and I’m not surprised to see the hundred or so local men, women and children waiting patiently in the shade of the building for their turn to see the medic. I’m mortified as we climb over the patients, lying and sitting in the dust. We find our way to the front and introduce ourselves. The doctor abandons his office and patients to show us around. I protest in my terrible few words of Portuguese telling him the patients are more important but he seems pleased to see us and give us the grand tour. Nema has already drawn up plans on the advice of the officials and we are nearly half way there with the fund raising. Global Angels have pledged a large sum and as soon as we have raised the second half we can move ahead with the plans.
The first room we visit is the maternity labour room and ward. The grimy walls make me feel sick. The stirrups hanging menacingly from their supports on the hospital bed bring back memories. Relief floods over me that I was born in the UK. We forget how very, very, very lucky we are with the NHS and everything else we take for granted. Two new mothers lie on plastic mattresses. The room is stifling, mosquito nets dangle from the ceiling, but unused due to the heat. The walls and floor are filthy; the door is open to the dusty road where the patients’ mothers or aunties are minding older siblings playing in the dirt. Babies hours old lie asleep next to the exhausted looking girls – their mothers.
If you need medical attention in rural Africa you should rely on a certain amount of luck. We want to add to these random odds and ensure the villagers in our area of Mozambique have access to a good, clean hospital. We will concentrate our efforts on achieving this over the next 12 months.