By Angela Hill
 
Elizabeth (Liz) McMahon has a big job at the Red Cross field hospital in Mozambique – she makes sure the doctors and nurses have all the medicines and medical equipment they need.
 
It’s hectic from the moment she, and the 3,000 various medical items associated with the field hospital, arrive in country.
 
“That is the toughest part of my job, when we first arrive on the ground. Medical logistics tends to be crazy busy at the beginning,” says Liz, who is a pharmacist in Nova Scotia when she is not overseas with Red Cross.
 
“That is the toughest part of my job, when we first arrive on the ground. Medical logistics tends to be crazy busy at the beginning,” says Liz, who is a pharmacist in Nova Scotia when she is not overseas with Red Cross.“Medical logistics is lots of trucks showing up and getting offloaded with forklifts, setting up big tents, and filling them, in some sort of organized chaotic fashion. Initially we’re just trying to get everything out of the heat, sun, dust and dirt.”
 
Then it’s about setting up for the long term so “We are there, ready and able to service the nurses and doctors who are coming to our warehouse for our medications or medical supplies they need, catheters, needles, whatever.”
 
In her role supporting the cholera treatment centre in Nhamatanda, Liz is seeing a lot of IV solution and antibiotics fly off the shelves.
 
“The big thing when cholera patients are sick is fluid. They are losing so much fluid, so quickly, that you need IV fluids as well as oral solutions.”
 
Liz helping in MozambiqueLiz also works alongside the pharmacist from the local district hospital, offering support when needed. She says there is a lot of similar medication between what she sees in Canada and what is in Mozambique. But, in Mozambique, there are more tropical disease medications. For example, in Canada anti-malarial drugs are used to prevent malaria for travellers, while “Here, it’s being used to treat malaria.”
 
She rarely stops moving from sun up to sunset, shifting boxes, checking supplies, and filling orders, but she’s not complaining.
 
“I think this work is very important in a country like Mozambique in a situation such as this. It is very rewarding to share your skill set with others, to meet the needs of the local population in a time of disaster.”
 
On March 15, 2019, Cyclone Idai made landfall in Mozambique, affecting over 1.8 million people, destroying approximately 111,000 homes and half a million hectares of agricultural land. The Canadian Red Cross responded by sending a field hospital, and supporting staff, to Nhamatanda in collaboration with the Finnish Red Cross and with the support of the Norwegian Red Cross.
 
The field hospital is made possible with the generous support of donors and the Government of Canada.