Healthy Mozambique – The Health Care System (Part 2)…
(Note to Our Faitihful Readers: Your author recently lost ( misplaced?, had stolen?) his camera. So, unfortunately for now, you’ll have to follow along without the benefit of pictures. We hope to have a replacement on board soon!)
Let’s continue our brief look at the Mozambican health care system - this time focusing on the impressive volunteer workforce that keeps the system running.
Civil society in Mozambique comprises literally thousands of organizations, mostly small and not for profit, that tackle a wide variety of social issues: education, agriculture, the environment and , especially, health care. Many of these organizations deploy their volunteers to address specifically the HIV/AIDs crisis. These volunteers contribute their time, and some receive nominal stipends of a few hundred dollars a month from their sponsoring organization. With high unemployment and underemployment in Mozambique there is no dearth of volunteers with time to offer.
Health care volunteers are typically known by the somewhat-quaint socialistic title, “activistas”. Activistas are involved in providing direct care services to patients at local hospitals and health centers. And, in educating their communities on disease prevention, screening and treatment. With only 1 Medical Doctor per 20,000 citizens in Mozambique, the very-lightly-trained activistas play a key role in maintaining the public health. For sure their lack of formal training can limit the quality and breadth of care activistas provide. However, most Mozambicans would agree that such assistance is better than the alternative – no care at all.
The most visible and perhaps important role for activistas is in the delivery of home-based care (“visitas domicilias”). In the starkly huge and rural country that is Mozambique, home-based care is often the difference between life and death for many who live far from any town or health care center. Activistas visit patients several times a month check to check their health status (vital signs and blood pressure are taken) and remind them of scheduled medical appointments. A case load of 10 to 20 patients per activista is typical. Most patients are referred to the activistas’ organizations from local health care centers For home-bound patients under treatment, activistas also serve as an essential courier service for delivering much-needed medications and supplies.
The activistas work force is truly impressive. Until more senior health professionals can be trained to service the needs of Mozambicans, it’s the activistas who will continue to make the daily life and death differences for millions.
Until Next Time (Ate Ja!)