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After Cyclone Idai: Rebuilding and patient care at Nhamatanda Hospital

By Jenn Houtby

At 11:30pm on March 14th Cyclone Idai roared across Mozambique leaving a wide path of destruction - cutting off communities, making roads impassable, damaging homes and killing hundreds of people. 

Located approximately 100 kms from Beira, the hospital in Nhamatanda was not spared.  Most buildings on the property were impacted , with significant damage to the emergency and treatment rooms, leaving only a portion of the hospital operational. 

A nurse in scrubsThe Canadian Red Cross sent a field hospital with a cholera treatment centre to the region, along with a team of highly-skilled doctors and nurses to assist the community.  After setting up the field hospital, medical teams were quickly seeing 100 patients per day.

Within a few weeks, the Canadian Red Cross hired local workers to begin repairs to hospital facilities.   Activities ranged from large scale repairs to infrastructure, such as  rebuilding roofs and creating a new slab for waste incineration, to small projects that include the installation of mosquito nets over windows to help prevent diseases such as malaria and dengue fever.  All repairs will have a significant positive impact on patient care.

An important component of the Nhamatanda hospital is the “waiting house”, where expectant mothers from nearby villages come to stay out the final days of their pregnancies and deliver their babies at the hospital.  Stays at the house vary from a few days to many weeks. Generally these pregnancies are considered higher-risk or have complications, so doctors like the moms to be close to medical facilities. The building was unsafe immediately following the cyclone, and was refurbished by the Canadian Red Cross including a new roof, paint and lighting. New lighting in the porch area means the women can cook and gather together even when it’s dark in the evenings.  The “waiting house” becomes a support network, and the women help each other through what could be a lonely and stressful time. 

“We feel comfortable here,” says  Tanici Fernado, one of the mothers-to-be.

Mothers at the waiting houseVicente Faria lives in Nhamatanda and has been supporting both the Mozambique and Canadian Red Cross with rebuilding efforts. He is very proud of what they have accomplished.

“I’m really happy because things are clean, and the hospital is now a nice place to stay,” says Vincente.
The Canadian Red Cross also provided training to medical staff giving doctors and nurses the opportunity to learn and practice new skills, increasing their capacity to serve their community.

When asked about the impact of Red Cross helping at Nhamtanda hospital Vincente says,
“Before people really valued the life of patients, but when Red Cross came doctors and nurses were trained in different skills with how to treat patients… Red Cross has helped Nhamatanda hospital with things like improved waste disposal, and even the availability of different size gloves has made a difference in patient care.”

On September 14th six months after the cyclone, rehabilitation work on the hospital was completed and handed over to the Ministry of Health where local staff continue to provide life-saving support to surrounding communities.

Related stories:
Stories from the Red Cross cholera treatment centre
Moving towards change: Hiring women labourers in Mozambique
A home for expecting mothers in Mozambique
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