Health Access in Mozambique

Health access in Mozambique
remains a challenge.

A delegation United Methodist leaders visiting the Assistant Minister of Health in Mozambique heard two disturbing facts: 85% of the people of this country have no access to a health clinic; barely 1.5 million have bed nets to repel mosquitos while 19 million do not have nets.

This means, obviously, that neither preventive nor acute care can be given because people have no access to the doctors, nurses and facilities. Bishop Machado, resident episcopal leader of the church in Mozambique, told me it is not uncommon for a pregnant woman to give birth before reaching a hospital or clinic.

Many don’t try. The deliver at home with the help of midwives. This traditional role has been helpful for millions and is a good adaptation to the lack of health care services except when problem pregnancies occur. Then, adequate services and equipment can make a difference.

The movement for community-based health care addresses this problem, and it’s not new. But community care requires adequate training and distribution of basic medications. It’s been successful in many parts of Africa when it has been sustained over long periods of time. But, as with all community-based programs, it needs constant attention. Replacement of community health workers is an on-going challenge, as is continuing education, and monitoring and tracking infectious diseases in communities.

These issues are being addressed. Where the work of community health workers is woven into the life of the community they provide the first line of health care when access is limited as the assistant health minister explained.

The recognition by government officials that health needs are basic, as simple as it sounds, is a significant first step. In many governments health care is not even on the radar. The identification of unserved populations is an even greater step. If failure to recognize the need precedes denial, there is no hope. But in Mozambique this is not the case. The government not only recognizes the need, it has determined the extent of need demographically and is attempting to support and expand existing services. This is a hopeful sign that these statistics can be turned around in time. Churches and other non-profit community organizations are playing a vital role in delivering basic health care to people across Africa in the absence of formal civil service, and they need to continue and be part of the expansion. It will save lives.

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