By Yudy Castro Morales on February 8, 2016
Although the majority of the country’s doctors work in the capital of Maputo, the number is so low that a serious shortage persists, thus the vital importance of support offered by Cuban collaborators throughout the nation
Maputo, Mozambique. A chest x-ray showed the presence of a foreign object; long, sharp, seemingly metal, rather like a nail, which in fact it was. During a momentary lapse in parental supervision, the 19 month old boy had swallowed the six centimeter object which ended up in one of his lungs.
The boy was admitted to the Maputo Central Hospital emergency department, and Dr. Juan José Oro Martínez, an ear, nose and throat specialist from Holguín with over a year’s experience at the medical institution, took charge of the child’s treatment, who was shortly returned to his mother’s arms, safe and well.
Such cases represent the most common emergencies requiring his specialist skills, “Because we not only have to deal with complicated medical situations, but help families through the ordeal, and once the situation is resolved and patient’s life has been saved, those involved feel a great sense of satisfaction.”
Fortunately, according to Oro Martínez, the hospital – the largest of its kind in the country – is outfitted with modern technology and the necessary equipment to treat patients, both in the examination rooms and operating theaters. Such an achievement however stands in stark contrast to the facility’s deficit of human resources, and although many of the country’s health centers are equipped with modern devices, the lack of adequately trained professionals to operate them represents a serious contradiction.
Perhaps that is why word of the over 50 Cuban collaborators in the Maputo Central Hospital is spreading; their efforts contributing toward strengthening an over 40 year healthcare initiative, continued today by the more than 280 collaborators dispersed throughout Mozambique.
According to Oro Martínez, this group, which in Maputo at least are considered “vital, necessary and must continue,” lead a daily struggle to treat the endless waves of HIV patients, as well as those suffering from other serious diseases, tuberculosis and ear infections. And although the days can be exhausting, his time here has shown him the “human reach of Cuban healthcare,” now legendary in this part of the world.
The first thing Sonia Marrime tells us about the Cuban professionals is perhaps the most illustrative and best example of their work in this country, of their professionalism and effort.
The doctor from Mozambique, currently studying to become an Otolaryngology (ENT) specialist at the Maputo Central Hospital summed up their impact, stating, “Here there isn’t a single patient who doesn’t like to be treated by the Cuban doctors,” encapsulating in a single sentence all the good they have brought to Mozambique.
Sonia described her good fortune at having been trained by Cuban professors and once again feels lucky, as she now shares the rigors of her residency with three other ENT doctors from the island who show great “empathy.”
Such compassion, so normal for Cubans, but somewhat uncommon here, was also the first thing Paulino Conta Muarapaz discovered when he arrived as a young boy in Cuba, where he later became a man and doctor.
I attended high school and pre-university on the Isle of Youth Special Municipality and later studied at the Faculty of Medicine and Medical Sciences in Santiago de Cuba. Today, back in Mozambique, almost 14 years later, Paulino still feels connected to Cuba, literally, as his ENT residency is led by Cuban doctors.
He admits that he misses a bit of everything about Cuba, “The people I met, the beaches, the fantastic weather and even baseball – because I support Santiago, although they’re currently not doing so well. All my professional knowledge, I learned there, my Portuguese isn’t even perfect because I was better at Spanish,” and to demonstrate states “Cuba’s support to my country has been immeasurable” in Spanish.
A HELPING HAND
Although the majority of the country’s doctors work in the capital of Maputo, the number is so low that a serious shortage persists, thus the vital importance of support offered by Cuban collaborators throughout the nation.
In the José Macano Hospital, where the second highest number of collaborators work, the support – sometimes the only – provided by Cuba is notable.
Wearing caps, masks and other items of protective gear we were able to enter one of the hospital’s internal medicine units. Magdalena Sáenz, a Cuban doctor recently arrived in Mozambique, warned us, “There are many cases of tuberculosis and other contagious diseases,” and expressed regret over the “lack of a primary healthcare system which could prevent or identify diseases early.”
According to the health professional, “People arrive to the hospital in a very bad state and sometimes it’s impossible to save them. Today the government is working to improve the country’s health system, but there’s still a long way to go, although Cuban support should help to advance this process.”
Finding some way to alleviate these healthcare deficiencies, in a country with a life expectancy of 50 years, represents our greatest commitment, added Niurbi Santiesteban another doctor supporting collaborative efforts at the José Macano Hospital and who – like so many other Cubans in this country – has authored countless inspiring stories.
AFRICA AN INTROSPECTIVE
It might seem like they are carrying the weight of the world on their heads as they come by to fill up their baskets. A burdensome load they bear here and out there on the street, where life goes on.
Sometimes they carry huge baskets of fruit or vegetables, clothes, fire wood, tanks of water, anything. They are young or older women, and even small girls, all of whom bear an additional burden: poverty. It’s a task never – or very rarely – performed by men.
Women’s work also includes tilling the land, often seen with their babies strapped to their backs. They are strong and don’t complain.
That’s what they were taught. This it the way it has always been. A reality accepted by their grandmothers, aunts, and sisters before them… Neither outside of Africa do we frequently question or reject established norms, even if they are wrong or harmful. And that’s another thing, the idea of good and bad, as we know, is a relative concept.
Either way, women in Mozambique, all across Africa and beyond stand proud, their heads held high upon strong necks, unaware of those from different cultures, with different customs and roles, who view them with bewilderment, feeling incapable of doing the same.
And there are even those who may praise their poise, and ability to balance such heavy loads on their heads, without recognizing the centuries of inequality and discrimination which they also bear. A weight heavier than any other and upon which it is worth reflecting, irrespective of cultural differences or “relativity.”
Source: Granma International