The road to health care in Mocambique
A VILLAGE CALLED ODINEPA
Eduardo is a young boy who lives in a small village in Mocambique called Odinepa.
Today he is no different from the other kids in the village. In the day he helps his mother and father work the small family field. After work he plays with his· friends among the wild mango and pawpaw trees.
Sometimes he watches the older boys making toy carts out of bamboo and wire. At these times Eduardo feels very proud. Everyone knows that his brother is the best cart builder in the village.
Eduardo’s family is very poor – like most families in Mocambique. They live off the land. And because the rains have not come for a long time, they don’t get much food.
The children are often hungry. Their parents are poor. And the government can’t give them much either. But the new government has not forgotten about the children. It cares about the children and works hard to keep them healthy. The children are more healthy than many other kids who live in the south of Africa.
Eduardo’s family is lucky to have healthy children. Like all poor countries, Mocambique has many diseases – diseases like measles, polio, leprosy and T.B. And when people don’t eat enough, their bodies cannot easily fight these diseases.
FRELIMO AND THE BAMBOO CART
The family knows the children are healthy for one reason. Frelimo, the people’s government in Mocambique, wants to give everyone the health care they need.
Eduardo’s parents remember how Frelimo helped their son when he was very sick. Three years ago, Eduardo cut his Ieg while playing with his friends. The cut got dirty and full of germs.
Eduardo got very ill. He had a fever and he could not walk.
The family was, very worried. They did not have a doctor or a clinic in Odinepa. The nearest clinic was in Namapa – a town more than 20 kilometres away.
Eduardo’s brother knew there was only one way to help the boy. He carried Eduardo to a cart parked behind the family’s hut. But this was no ordinary cart. It was bright yellow – and looked just like a Land Rover. It was made out of bamboo and old pieces of wire.
His brother pulled the cart out of the village with Eduardo inside. And he pulled the cart through the small farms of the people and over the streams that crossed the road’ to the clinic in Namapa.
THE LONG ROAD TO NAMAPA
The road was long and bumpy. The brother got very tired. But he knew that he would find help at the end of the road. So he kept on pulling.
Ten hours later the brothers arrived at the clinic at Namapa. They paid the clinic only 20 cents.
And the doctor looked at Eduardo’s leg. He put Eduardo into hospital and gave him medicine for the wound.
After three days Eduardo was healthy again. The brothers left the way they came – but this time Eduardo was walking.
Learn and Teach spoke to the doctor from Namapa. He told us about Eduardo and his brave brother. And he told us about Frelimo’s long struggle to give health care to all the people of Mocambique.
HEALTH CARE TEN YEARS AGO
“Ten years ago people like Eduardo and his family had no health care,” said the doctor. “In those days Mocambique was not a free country. It was ruled by a country overseas called Portugal.
Frelimo was the people’s organization. At that time Frelimo was fighting to free the people from the rule of Portugal.
“The rulers from Portugal were cruel. They were in Mocambique for one thing only – to get rich. So they did not spend much time or money to build houses, schools or hospitals for the people. The people suffered.
“In 1974 Samora Machel made a speech about the health of his people. He is the leader of Frelimo. He said: ‘In the mines where we labour, on the farms that we work, on the roads that we build, in the factories and in the villages there are millions of people who have never seen a doctor or a nurse.’
“One year later Frelimo won its war against Portugal. The people of Mocambique were free. Frelimo became the new government.
A NEW ROAD TO HEALTH CARE
“At once Frelimo made new plans for the health care of the people,” said the doctor. “They stopped all private doctors from working in Mocambique because Frelimo believes that doctors must not get rich from sick people. Today Frelimo owns all the hospitals and clinics. All the doctors work for the people – not for the money.
“Frelimo wants everyone to get health care for free. So people don’t have to pay much for medicine and health care. When people visit a hospital, they pay only 20 cents.
“Mocambique is very poor. So it cannot pay many doctors. When Frelimo won the war many rich doctors ran away. So today only 400 doctors work in this country of twelve million people.
“But Frelimo does not believe a person must be a doctor to help sick people. Frelimo trains people from the villages to help sick people. These people are called viIlage health workers. They can help with many health problems in the villages. In this way Frelimo brings health care to many villages where there are no doctors.
“Frelimo knows they must not only help sick people. They know they must also find ways to stop people from getting sick. So the village health workers show people how to stay healthy. They tell people about healthy food. And they show parents how to look after the health of their children.
“Frelimo also spends a lot of money on free vaccinations for the people especially the children. -These are injections that stop bad diseases like measles, polio and T.B.
PROBLEMS ON THE ROAD
“Frelimo hopes that better health will help the people to build a strong and wealthy nation,” says the doctor. “They have come a long way on the new road to health care for all. But they still face many problems. They know it will be a long time before they reach the end of the road.
“Mocambique has little money to buy medicine and to build clinics. For the last three years the rains did not come in Mocambique. So the crops will not grow and the animals are dying. Frelimo must spend a lot of money to buy food for the people. This means they cannot buy all the medicine they need.
“Some people are still fighting a war against Frelimo. These people are called the MNR. The MNR wants to destroy the good things that Frelimo brings to the people.
“These enemies of the people burn down clinics and attack ambulances on the roads. Frelimo must spend a lot of money on guns to fight the MNR. Again this means less health care for the people.
“So Mocambique still does not have enough clinics, doctors and health workers to give health care to its people,” said the doctor from Namapa. “The road to health care for all is long and bumpy. But like Eduardo and his brother, Frelimo knows where they are going – and they are pulling hard to get there.”.