Some memories stand out pretty sharply from my time in Mozambique. One is of the time I was leading the team and was brought to see a pregnant woman who was in some kind of distress. I really felt powerless in that situation and wished I had specialised in obstetrics instead of peads! I thought the best thing to do was to bring her back to the orphanage where we could get her more help. As it turned out there wasn’t anything else we could do for her, so she had a good rest at the orphanage for a few days and then we had to get her back to her village. Its amazing how similar all the little villages look from a helicopter!! Especially when the pilots stop at several each day and don’t return to the same one again for a week or so, except to pick a medical team. it took a long hour or two and one refuelling stop to return her. So in fuel alone that trip cost around $2000. Everyone was really nice, the pilots were great about it all, but I still beat myself up when I remember that story!
Another adventure we had was when i headed off to a community with another doctor and a nurse. Because this one was further away, we planned to stay for a couple of nights, so we could have two full day of clinics. This community was right on the coast, in fact we stayed in what remained of a holiday resort. Each day since the floods had receded, they had watched a couple of feet of the coast line disappear into the sea, they lost many of their buildings in the process. I recall driving along a track that had flood debris left in the trees 10 feet above ground level, this area had had it bad.
We actually ended up staying a couple of extra nights because we had been left off the flight schedule for the helicopters and then the next day they ran out of day light flying hours! In the end Roland Baker flew his own light aircraft to come and get us, it was the first time he had been able to since the floods because airstrips were all damaged. Meanwhile we had a fun couple of days quad biking on the sand dunes, and watching the local soccer tournament (we had run out of medical supplies and so couldn’t run any more clinics)! I recall taking off in Roland’s aircraft, it was dark by the time we left so a couple of the resort staff had to station the quad bikes strategically with the lights on to mark the end of the run way!!! We also didn’t have enough seats in the plan and one of us had to sit in the back on the floor…. Hmmmm!
Mozambique was also the first place I had come face to face with the arrogance that bred and was bred by apartheid. I recall sitting in a truck with a certain gentleman from South Africa and my stomach turning as I listened to him reduce this massive natural disaster to a matter of just deserts due to inferiority of race. I had no idea that I was later to discover the treasure of knowing countless heroes when I would one day live for a time in South Africa, a beautiful land with many deep, sacred wounds.