Saturday, September 26, 2009


Yesterday, September 25th, was a holiday in Mozambique “Dia das Forças Armadas”. Or as it was explained to me, “The day when the first shots were fired at Portuguese Colonialists back in 1964.” And so began the long, armed struggle for independence which begat the civil war which plunged the nation into dire poverty and disrepair. The peace accord that eventually silenced the guns and brought a halt to the destruction was signed in 1992, more or less 28 years later.

Thankfully, the day commemorating this important date was a quiet one for us. We got up at a leisurely pace and I was just settling down with my 2nd cup of coffee when someone arrived at our door. A local pastor came to ask if I could come see a sick gentleman who had apparently been sick for quite awhile with “a stomach thing” and had been here and there for treatment without much success. Experience has taught me that in such cases, I will likely have about the same degree of success since our rural bush clinics can only provide a basic level of care. But we counsel people, offer help or any relief we can, and pray for them if they would like.

One look at the gentleman’s thin limbs and swollen belly, and hearing his history, told me he suffered from cirrhosis of the liver. I’ve seen other cases in this area. We gave him some vitamins, encouraged him to follow up at the nearest hospital, prayed for him then gave him a ride home. When I got home I reviewed the condition. Again.

Cirrhosis is the irreversible, progressive destruction of the liver. Although this disease can be caused by chronic alcohol abuse, in Africa there are other common causes as well like:

1. Hepatitis B infection
2. Toxins ingested from badly stored grains or peanuts: (Few out here have the capacity to store grain “well”. You’re lucky if you can keep it from rats, goats and fire and you’re VERY lucky if your crop will feed you for an entire year.)
3. Schistosomiasis or Bilharzia: Where this disease exists, it is the most common cause of liver damage. It is present in the water of most if not all rivers in this part of the world and the fluke, or “worm”, easily penetrates human skin.

People here depend heavily on river water for bathing and use at home. Some communities now have access to well water, but some do not. Even so, there are measures they can take to make river water safe for use. In the Preventive Health manual I’m putting together for communities, I think I’ll highlight that section in red, underline it, italicize it and put it in bold! (But then, I'm tempted to do that with all the sections...)

Speaking of water (and struggle), this week the guys tackled swapping the old 5,000 Liter water tank on our stand to a 10,000 Liter tank. It was quite the event.

First, you build a structure out of logs, wire, nails and boards that is strong enough to support the shifting weight of a dangling, oversized PVC tank and several guys who will climb around pushing and pulling the tank, rearranging the poles, pounding nails, moving boards, etc.

Then, you tie strong rope
(It doesn’t look strong, but it is. Really. ☺) around and around the tank then up to the top center pole then down again into the hands of 2 gangs of men on either side of the stand. You could call this a “bush pulley system”. And everyone puuuuuulls!

Next, you may have to remedy a few things that slip, creak or just aren’t high enough by sending guys scrambling up the rather dubious scaffolding.

Here, Rick demonstrates safety-consciousness by tying himself to a pole while he works. (Look Dear, no hands!) Charles, on the other side, decided to try that but with wire instead. We at the bottom helped by shouting advice and warnings, gasping, getting sweaty palms and taking pictures (thanks for the photos Heather!)

Last, you have the finale where the “Patrão” (Dwight) goes to the very highest point to release the pulley anchor and secure water pipe fittings.

Ta da.

This post is getting long now so let me try to close quickly with a few last photos.

We visited a community this week that has a half-finished health post. They have requested our help in getting this up and running so the community has better access to health services. I can hardly wait to get tucked into this project!

While there, we also visited the home of a widower in poor health who had almost no food and 2 small kids to care for.
The littlest guy really didn’t like the looks of us at all. No matter how much we tried, and maybe because we tried, he either cried

or hid his face the whole time we talked.

This (below) is their current home which I doubt will make it through the rainy season.

First item on the agenda is (besides food and clothing) a better home with better food storage capabilities. The orphan/widow home below has a spare room that will come in handy.

Who knows? We may just coax a smile out of him.

Let's just hope it doesn't take 28 long years for that!


Amanda said...

haha, aww, I like that last photo. Good post mom :)

Russell said...

Ahhh, yes. Watch dad work up high on rickety things. Nothing has changed.