Those who serve at our Zavora Clinic in Mozambique
Mario Rocha, Zavora Clinic Manager (left) and Drs Yoann and Rebecca Escach (right)
Our long term goal is to establish permanent clinics. Thus, in 2003 we started taking the first steps in developing our first permanent clinic in Zavora, Mozambique. After many years of hard work and negotiations, the construction of Doctors For Life’s (DFL) first clinic and maternity ward was finally completed and officially opened in 2009. Today the facility offers free general, dental and eye care to the local Chopi population. The clinic also has a 3 bed maternity ward for deliveries. The clinic attracts patients from other districts as well, even as far as Maputo which is 400 km away.
During 2015 alone, our clinic in Zavora, Mozambique, examined and treated about 21,752 patients. This was a new record compared to only 18,229 in 2014 and 12,916 in 2013. Part of the reason for the increase was the high number of malaria cases (5,597) we treated. The Mozambique government declared a malaria pandemic and as early as 2016 there were already a high number of infections. Our maternity ward assisted with 241 deliveries. The next goal is to build an operating theatre in order to do surgeries, such as caesareans.
Currently, we have Zavora Clinic in Mozambique and a second clinic in Chikuluma, Malawi which we initiated in and around 2018.
We would like to expand our reach and build clinics in Angola and we have already been offered land to construct clinics
The clinic at Zavora in Mozambique stemmed from Doctors for Life’s mobile clinic ministry to African countries. We had always dreamed of having a permanent clinic in an African country and Mozambique is the first country where it materialized.
Doctors For Life were invited by a missionary already working in Mozambique to start a permanent clinic. We were not sure of how to respond to this offer as it can be a major administrative task to apply for, and to run a clinic in a foreign country. One would also need to own the land where the clinic is established because of the investment made by the donors who fund and support the clinic.
We thought that we had discouraged the missionary of the idea, but three weeks later he contacted us and officially donated land to Doctors for Life to build a clinic. The registration only took three months.
Initially we carried out the work in tents and there was a large contingent of volunteers. A certain organization donated a helicopter and provided a pilot and the maintenance of the craft if we could cover the costs of the fuel. At that time we had a large group of medical students who volunteered from the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal who were willing to sponsor the fuel.
Suddenly, we received a message from the new administrator of the area who knew nothing about the prior arrangements. They wanted to know who we were and what we were doing flying a helicopter in the area doing medical work? We tried our best to keep the clinical work going using the helicopter but we were prevented from doing so, although we were still allowed to use the helicopter for health education programs.
We were not sure anymore as to whether we should have a clinic in Mozambique and so we stopped any major activities in the area for about a year. Eventually we decided that we should get final clarity as to whether we would be allowed to run a clinic or not, and so we contacted the government and arranged a meeting with the Minister of Health.
Contact with the missionary was very difficult at that time because of poor reception in the remote areas and so we weren’t able to communicate with him for about three weeks. When we arrived in Mozambique to meet him together with the Minister, we noticed that he was over the moon! It turned out, that the Health Department, the police, and the security police had arrived at DFL property to arrest and deport everybody. There had apparently been rumours that we were flying patients out of the country to South Africa, and that they were dying here. They demanded to see the clinic! After everything had been explained to them and the misunderstandings were cleared up, they left.
That afternoon the Department of Health phoned and apologized profusely for the misunderstanding. They said that we would have an answer in two weeks but unfortunately, we would not be allowed to operate in tents. We would have to build a proper clinic! This was all very good news but building, equipping, staffing and running a clinic is a costly undertaking and we didn’t have the resources to do it.
Upon returning to South Africa, we were informed that a donation had been made by a Dutch gentleman to Doctors For Life to build a clinic, and that the donation was enough to cover the costs of establishing it.
This was the beginning of Zavora Clinic!