By Joanna Stepien, labour and delivery nurse

Today marks the final day of my deployment to Nhamatanda, Mozambique with the Red Cross transition team following Cyclone Idai. Six weeks ago today, I boarded a plane not knowing what the following weeks had in store for me.

Now, I reflect on both the amazing miracles of life I was honoured to be a part of, as well as the heart wrenching tragedies that are faced by families of Nhamatanda and surrounding communities. I’ve learned more from this experience than I can begin to explain

Maria and her twin boys, Carlos and NicoI would like to share with you the amazing story of Maria and her twin boys, Carlos and Nico! Maria went into labour prematurely with her twin boys and needed an emergency c-section because her boys lost their sense of direction and were both in the breech position (bum first).

The c-section went smoothly but her boys were born weighing only 1.2kg and 1.3kg. Carlos and Nico were tiny, weak and unable to feed at the breast. It was suggested and recommended that Maria and the boys be transferred to a hospital equipped with a neonatal intensive care unit.

This transfer was not realistic for Maria and the boys due to family and cultural restrictions. Given all the circumstances and lack of resources at the Rural Hospital of Nhamatanda, it seemed they boys had a slim chance of survival.

They certainly proved us wrong!

Maria’s milk production was unbelievable. We quickly established hand expression techniques and assisted in expressing into syringes. We slowly fed the boys using the syringes for days. We promoted skin to skin as much as possible and kept the boys close to the breast.

Green light to go homeWithin the first week, both boys successfully latched at the breast, though they tired quickly Maria had enough milk to keep hand expressing and topping up her boys using the syringe method.

Nico and Carlos began to gain weight and show signs that they were getting stronger and healthier.

They got the green light and were discharged home last week!


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.