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Stories from the Red Cross cholera treatment centre in Mozambique

By Angela Hill, Canadian Red Cross communications aid worker in Mozambique; photos by Luc Alary

When the Canadian Red Cross field hospital cholera treatment centre opened in Nhamatanda, Mozambique on Thursday, Elisa Armando was one of the first into the tent.
Elisa Armando and her son JoaquimElisa, 19, brought her three-year-old son Joaquim who had diarrhea and was throwing up.
The international team of doctors and nurses from Finland, Mozambique, Canada and Israel, worked to get fluids into Joaquim, and the many other children who arrived with their mothers.
“Children can be really resilient, but they can also get really sick, really quickly,” said Canadian nurse, Jenna Atchison, who leads the cholera treatment centre.
“For that reason, we have strict guidelines and protocols that we follow and with that a lot of children that we’ve seen look [better] within a few of hours. They are sitting up drinking, interacting with mom, not wanting to be here, which is always the reaction we want the kids to have.”
Joaquim was one of those, who with some IV fluids, started drinking from a cup before crawling into his mother’s sling for a nap.
“I want to say thank you, because since you are here everything is okay. The baby is fine,” Elisa said, through a translator.
Ilda George and her daughter LauraA day later, Laura Joao, 7, also started getting better with liquids. She was spending the night in the cholera treatment centre with her mom 24-year-old Ilda George.
“I thank god for sending you here, because if you weren’t here people would die,” Ilda said through a translator.
And added she knew Laura was feeling better because, “she said ‘mom, you take me to school, so I can learn English.’”
This is what Jenna wants to hear, especially when the mothers feel better about their children, too.
“It really shows that we are doing the work that we came here to do because treating patients isn’t just treating the patients, it’s more of a holistic care.”
The opening of the cholera treatment centre marks a shift in work for the health team from building the facility to treating patients.
“Seeing that first patient come in really made it all worthwhile, all of those long days, all of the work, all of the lifting and organizing and logistics,” Jenna said.
“It was really a wonderful moment to see all the work that the entire team had done come to fruition.”

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.
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