Mozambique Blog Post—By Xochitl Hanson Pastran.
My memories are filled with images of the green, palm-studded countryside and beautiful ocean views of the province of Inhambane, Mozambique, as well as the poverty and gender inequality faced by women there and the hard work folks at the Mozambique-Canada-Maternal-Health (MCMH) project do to improve women’s lives in this picturesque and complex part of the world. When I arrived in the port city for my global health elective, two questions stood out in my mind: “What am I doing here?” and “How can I remain conscious of my biases and limitations as a Canadian public health student?” An email from Nazeem Mahajarine requesting I help with the “Near Miss” research project helped answer the first question, and the second called for a consistent reflection practice.
Finding that sense of purpose early on helped me overcome the challenges (for example, communicating in Portuguese), and learn from experts in the MCMH project. I’m very grateful I had the privilege to work with Horácio Mandevo and Lidia Monjane for two weeks. These hard-working, inspiring leaders collaborate with health policy makers to improve maternal health through research and project implementation that are centered on gender equity and community identified needs.
During my time there, Lidia and I met with the “Near Miss” working group, which includes the Chief Provincial Officer of Health (Dr. Stellio) and other health policy makers. The dynamic meeting was filled with enthusiasm for the research, which will measure maternal health outcomes positively by focusing on women who have survived potentially fatal obstetrical emergencies, thus the title “Near Miss.” The determination of this highly competent group to actively address the burden of maternal mortality in Inhambane by understanding and improving upon interventions that already save lives filled me with hope the situation will improve.
Horácio and I had the chance to visit a maternal waiting home (casa de mãe espera) in Homoine, a small rural town that experienced tremendous violence during the civil war. I will never forget the long line-ups of sick people waiting to be attended to outside the aged yellow hospital, including a group of pregnant women who waited on the porch of the small, straw-roofed casa de mãe espera. Frankly, the conditions of the building were grim—a leaky roof over breezy walls, no running water or private bathroom, and only an outdoor concrete slab for building fires on as a means to cook food. It was an extension and reflection of the unjust poverty and inequality faced by many Mozambican women every day. Thankfully, the “Casa de Mãe Espera” MCMH project aims to improve the conditions of 10 maternal waiting homes in Inhambane over the coming years.
Horacio and I also worked together to plan for the visit of students from the University of Saskatchewan’s Making the Links certificate in global health program. It was a grand opportunity to bring these two Mozambican-Canadian partnerships together, and I’m very thankful the students and I had the chance to learn so much from the incredible people of the MCMH project.