Some reflections by Nazeem Muhajarine, Principal Investigator, Mozambique-Canada Maternal Health Project

It is not often that a cruise-liner can turn on a dime compared to a speed boat. But that is exactly what the Mozambique-Canada Maternal Health Project did when Global Affairs Canada asked us in February to accommodate a visit to our project in Inhambane, to occur in middle of March 2024 – a mere 10 days before the end of scheduled activities in our project.

From left Antonio Tanda, Nazeem Muhajarine, Claudia Theriault (GAC, Ottawa), Trish Lang (Canadian High Commission, Maputo), Daniel Chapo (Governor, Province of Inhambane), Marni Davidson (GAC, Ottawa), Mbate Matandalasse, Naftal Matusse (Provincial Director of Health), Horacio Mandevo.

The four-member team (two senior staff from GAC, Ottawa, head quarters and two health staff from the Canadian High Commission, Maputo) opened their visit with the project team giving a comprehensive overview of the project achievements, challenges, and key success factors for creating an enduring international partnership. This was followed by visits to the District of Morrumbene, and specifically to meet the District Administrator, to the community of Savanguane and to the Morrumbene Main Health facility and the Murie rural health facility complex, the latter which was build by the project. On the third and final day of the visit, the visitors met the Governor of Inhambane Province, the provincial Director of Health, and had extended discussions with the project team on project’s achievements.

Talking of project’s achievements, it is not easy to summarize these in few paragraphs. Under three strategic areas (communities, health care system, and research and dissemination), we were working with as many as 18 reportable outputs (encompassing more than 70 indicators). When we reported in November 2023, at mid-year of Year 7, we had met or exceeded majority of the targets that we had set to achieve at the start of the project.

It would be interesting to consider what we had identified as five success factors for long-lasting international partnerships, as exemplified by our project.

First, Longevity – by which I mean long-term commitment to working in Mozambique. This is not a one-off project-based work. We are in for the long-haul, building on past successes and lessons.

Second, Commitment of leaders has been key to success. Organizations and communities, at multiple levels (in the communities that we work, at district and provincial systems level, at the national level in Mozambique, at University of Saskatchewan, and at Global Affairs Canada) have pulled together to see the project to completion.

Dr. Muhajarine brings greetings to Savunguane
Savunguane leader presents the report of activities
Savunguane community member in project gear

Third, Openness to adaptation and change has been a very important success factor. For example, COVID-19 pandemic derailed many NGOs and development assistance partners’ work in Mozambique. In our project, however, year 2020 was marked by construction of maternity clinics, maternity waiting homes, etc., in seven sites, which was done without interruptions, over eight-months from March to October.

Fourth, Friendships, both professional and personal, have been the ‘glue’ that makes us stick together. This point is often under-appreciated, usually taken as a given, but it is the glue that keeps partnerships like this alive and well, over long time.

The last success factor is working for Mutual benefit. All parties, and especially those in Mozambique, should benefit from the relationship. These benefits have to be tangible and sought-after. Tangible benefits from our project to Mozambique and Mozambicans are many, but benefits have also come in the other direction, to Canadian partners.

Savunguane community and project team

The Mozambique-Canada Maternal Health Project is scheduled to close at the end of this month—all program activities closing on March 31, 2024, and end of project reports due within three months. Though this project is ending, we are not at the end of the road. Our commitments to the partnership have not ended, the friendship and relationships we have built are as strong as ever, and there is still a lot of work to do in Mozambique. Stay tuned to see where we will be taking this global partnership next.

Until then, muito obrigado e muitas felicidades!