Cuban Physicians Provide Care to Victims of Cyclone Idai in Mozambique

Rafael Stedile
After cyclone Idai destroyed part of the country, the people of Mozambique are rebuilding their lives in temporary camps - Créditos: Rafael StedileAfter cyclone Idai destroyed part of the country, the people of Mozambique are rebuilding their lives in temporary camps / Rafael Stedile

Camp of people affected by cyclone in Mozambique

A group of members of Brazilian people’s movements traveled to the country to support its reconstruction after tragedy

The camp does not have a name. But today, in the blue and white tents, close to a thousand Mozambican men and women live here. After the Idai cyclone passed through southeast Africa, affecting Malawi and Zimbabwe as well, millions of people now are trying to rebuild their lives.

A month after the tragedy, the total number of dead exceeds 1,000 – 60% of them are from Mozambique. In this country, data from the United Nations shows that 1.8 million people were affected by the destruction caused by the cyclone. Many of them lost their houses and are now without shelter.

In the Mozambican city of Beira, which is one of the most affected cities, the camp houses elderly people, adults, adolescents, and many children. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund, at least 1.6 million children need urgent aid in the three countries of the southeast region of Africa, principally humanitarian aid like health, nutrition, protection, education, water, and sanitary services.

A report in photos by Rafael Stedile>>

Some foreign organizations, like NGOs and others tied to the Catholic Church, also are present in the region and distribute food from a truck. The largest part of the infrastructure there, like the tents, are international donations.

The hygienic conditions are precarious. The tents are very susceptible to wind and not very resistant to rain. The people have access to electricity through solar battery chargers. Those who have relatives in the camp have visits and maybe extra help.

In the day it is hot and at night it is cold. People do not have expectations about when they will leave the camp. When it rains, the water enters in the tents and people are desperate to protect the kids. There are not enough mosquito nets, mattresses to sleep on, blankets to keep warm from the cold and the quality of the food is not the best. Many complain of repetitive and poorly cooked food.

One of the NGOs that we find in the camp was worried about the contamination of the water. There was no hand-washing process in the tents that served as bathrooms. The water that was dispensed in the bathrooms is mixed with the dirt from the floor where the children played.

Despite the uncertain future and the present full of difficulties, it is still possible to see the smile on the faces of the people and a strength in the posture of the Mozambican people.

Edition: Vivian Fernandes | Translated by Zoe PC

Cuban physicians provide care

Over 7,000 people who were affected by the long-live storm have received free medical care from volunteers

A doctor sees a Mozambican patient in one of the seven basic health care tents of a temporary camp in Beira - Créditos: Rafael StedileA doctor sees a Mozambican patient in one of the seven basic health care tents of a temporary camp in Beira / Rafael Stedile

The Henry Reeve International Medical Brigade was originally created in Cuba to help victims of hurricane Katrina, which hit New Orleans, Louisiana in 2005, but it was rejected by George W. Bush at the time. The idea of unrestricted solidarity, however, remained alive, and the volunteer brigade has traveled several countries ever since. Now, it is growing in importance as the world is more and more affected by global warming and increasingly extreme weather events.

Since March 29, 40 Cuban volunteers – 16 physicians and 24 health professionals including nurses, lab workers, logistics workers, and psychologists – are working in seven tents set up in a bare gymnasium in the coastal city of Beira to provide care to the victims of Cyclone Idai, which hit Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe between March 4th and 21st, killing more than 1,000 people – 60 percent of them in Mozambican territory.

In Mozambique, data from the United Nations shows that 1.8 million people were affected by the destruction caused by the cyclone. Many of them lost their houses and are now without shelter. Many more are at risk from a cholera outbreak.

A report in photos by Rafael Stedile>>

In the cyclone-hit Mozambique, the work of Cuban health workers is essential to save lives in one of the cities that is struggling the most after the tragic weather event. Coordinated by the 55-year-old epidemiologist Dr. Rolando Piloto, the brigade performs lab tests and surgeries in more than 600 Mozambicans a day, Monday through Saturday, and on Sunday duties.

More than 7,000 people — 54 percent women and 16 percent children and adolescents — have received free and open health care so far and more than 50 surgeries have been performed. In addition to medical care, patients also receive free medication and psychological support.

While all Beira residents have been directly or indirectly affected by Cyclone Idai, the problems they report in the camp are not necessarily related to it. The most common conditions reported are chronic conditions including hypertension and diabetes, as well as acute respiratory disorders.

“I like them because we are being treated as equals. Everyone has to get in line to receive care, there is no special treatment for those who are monied or influential in a hospital,” 28-year-old Aida Lucia said, after she took her daughter to one of the tents and received basic medical care.

*Rafael Stedile is a photographer and was invited to visit Mozambique by the Academic Action for the Development of Rural Communities (ADECRU), which is supporting our reporting. He is part of the Solidarity Brigade of the Vía Campesina, which brings together militants, health professionals, and rural workers of Brazilian people’s movements.

Edition: Pedro Ribeiro Nogueira | Translated by Aline Scátola and Zoe PC