On 20 November a delegation of representatives of the cooperation between EU countries visited the multipurpose DREAM Center of the Community of Sant’Egidio in Beira, Mozambique. The representatives, who collaborate in common projects of development aid, decided to visit the DREAM program together as an example of best practice in the partnership between Europe and Africa.
They received a warm welcome and their visit covered every area of the center. This allowed them to esteem the quality of the molecular biology laboratory and its technical equipment and the degree of training of the lab technicians, health workers and the personnel in charge of social support. What caught the attention of the guests was the concern and dedication personnel demonstrated when interacting with the patients, and how priority is given to continuous therapy and assistance, also thanks to thorough research on the patients who miss their appointments to make sure they do not abandon the treatment.
Improving access to health services, especially in view of the treatment of the HIV virus, paying particular attention to teens and women. This was the subject discussed during the important conference held on 22 June in Maputo, with the participation of “Champions for an AIDS-free generation in Africa” – former African statesmen who dedicated themselves to this important aspect of healthcare and who were able to bring substantial improvements to the field, thanks to their good governance during their mandate. It was an occasion to unite influential and respected personalities able to steer and improve the health policies of Sub-Saharan Africa.
The next day, a large delegation of the “Champions” visited the DREAM center “Para Criança” of the Community of Sant’Egidio in Maputo, to see this reality up close, as well as the “best practice” example offered by DREAM: the former presidents Alberto Chissano (Mozambique), Kgalema Petrus Motlanthe (South Africa) and Speciosa Wandira-Kazibwe (Uganda), together with the institutional representatives of Lesotho, Swaziland, Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia. They were welcomed by the DREAM team, who showed them the health services offered by the center, where thousands of patients receive free treatment, and the highly specialized molecular biology laboratory annexed to the health center, one of 7 built by DREAM in the country.
The whole delegation appreciated the services offered and in particular President Chissano wanted to check his blood pressure and, referring to the many patients present, called for everyone to carefully follow through with the treatment and adhere to the check-ups and medical prescriptions. The President then wished to remind everyone how he has always appreciated the DREAM Program and accompanied it since the beginning, when anti-retroviral drugs were still not available in the country and how the Community of Sant’Egidio were pioneers in introducing therapy for the treatment of AIDS. One of the patients who regularly receives treatment in the center told the President how the DREAM center is like a home and a family. A family not only in Mozambique anymore, where it took its first steps, but spread across 10 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. A “best practice” that the Champions agree should be spread and replicated so that an AIDS-free generation in Africa becomes a reality, following the footsteps of the thousands of children born healthy and free from the HIV virus, thanks to the treatment protocol carried out on the mothers in this DREAM center.
Last 19 April a delegation of Mozambican MPs visited the “Centro para a Criança – Children’s Health Center” in order to better understand the activities carried out by the Community of Sant’Egidio in the fight against AIDS and Tuberculosis through the DREAM Program.
During the visit the delegation proved to be very interested in DREAM’s focus on prevention and its holistic approach to the disease. Furthermore the results achieved in these years were cause of great amazement, particularly the fact that 100% of the children are born healthy under the program for the prevention of the mother-child transmission of the virus.
The MPs then asked the managers of the Program in the country for a report on its activities and the results obtained in these 16 years of activity.
On 5 May Dr. Nurja Majid and Dr. Elsa Mutemba, the managers of the DREAM health centers in Mozambique, were invited to a session of the Assembly of the Republic regarding the state of the HIV infection in Mozambique. Part of the Assembly was in fact dedicated to the results obtained by DREAM and its efficient treatment model. Moreover everyone was reminded how DREAM was the first to introduce antiretroviral drugs in the country and open its molecular biology laboratories for monitoring the treatment of AIDS in Mozambique.
Towards the end of the session the Community of Sant’Egidio received a special “thank you” for its invaluable support offered through DREAM to the health of the Mozambican people.
On 27 February 2017 a contract was signed between the Community of Sant’Egidio and the Japanese embassy in Maputo for the development of the ward for cancer prevention at the “woman’s health center” in Zimpeto, Maputo.
The Zimpeto area is located in the Ka Mabukwana district, in the northern suburbs of Maputo. The district’s population is of about 337,000 inhabitants, of which 60% are aged 15-64. The district is amongst one of the most populated areas of Maputo, and the medical facilities present (6 health centers and a hospital) do not suffice.
The district’s population is mostly made up of people who recently migrated from the rural areas, and there are many new residential buildings, while 13% of the homes are straw huts.
The woman’s health center is multi-purposed, composed of specialized sections for treating the HIV infection (which has a 23% prevalence amongst adults in Maputo), the prevention of the mother-child transmission, the premature diagnosis of neoplasms in women, a section for the treatment of Tuberculosis (first cause of death in HIV+ people, and generally one of the first in Mozambique), and an area dedicated to the nutritional supplements for the malnourished patients.
Within the first 3 years of activity it is estimated that 5000 HIV+ patients will undergo treatment. Every year about 500 women will be able to benefit also from the screening for cervical cancer, whose incidence in Mozambique is amongst the highest in the world (42-60 new cases each year every 100,000 women). HIV+ women have a higher risk of developing cervical cancer.
In the new center in Zimpeto, as in all other DREAM centers, the most advanced protocols will be implemented, both in staff training and in diagnostic and therapeutic standards.
The Japanese embassy has already contributed to the development of the health center of Matola 2. With the recent agreement yet another important step has been taken in the collaboration between the DREAM program and the Japanese embassy in Maputo, with the common endeavor to improve the health of the Mozambican population.
The project against famine backed by the Italian Cooperation and implemented by the DREAM program of the Community of Sant’Egidio in Mozambique and Malawi has reached the people afflicted by the drought.
2016 has been a particularly difficult year in Southern Africa, with about 15 million people affected by an ongoing food crisis. The reason is El Niño, which causes an increase of the surface temperature in the eastern and central regions of the Pacific Ocean about every 5 years. It caused a drought with severe consequences on the region’s already fragile agriculture. This led to a poor harvest and a significant increase in food prices, with severe nutritional implications on populations which are already subject to malnutrition. It is for this reason that DREAM started an emergency project thanks to funds donated by the Italian Cooperation, with the aim of fighting the food crisis in Malawi and Mozambique.
An initial food distribution was carried out in Mozambique to patients infected with HIV, who are most vulnerable to malnutrition. In the first month about 270 patients were reached in the DREAM centers in Quelimane, Beira and Manga Chingussura. Each patient received a package containing rice, beans, sugar and oil.
In Malawi, a poorer country and most affected by the drought, the packages were distributed by the DREAM centers in Balaka, Kapire, Dzoole and Kapeni reaching over 1000 HIV+ patients. In just a few days, between 30th September and 1st October, packages were distributed in the villages of Phalombe and Chikwawa. They reached about 900 families selected thanks to the help from the village chiefs and priests who identified the vulnerable families: orphan children, elderly, families with numerous children, single mothers and their children.
The project against famine is the product of the synergy between DREAM, spread out and embedded in the African context, and the donations from the Italian Cooperation. It represents an immediate and efficient response to the needs of the populations of Southern Africa affected by El Niño.
The project on the famine emergency has begun, in order to give an initial response to the food crisis unleashed by El Niño in Southern Africa. 2016 has been a year of food shortage across Africa, affecting almost 15 million people (news news ). Thanks to the resources of the Italian Cooperation, the DREAM program has launched a project with the aim of providing food aid to the populations most affected by the drought in Malawi and Mozambique that will reach 20,000 people.
During the initial phase of the project, along with food distribution, questionnaires were given out in order to analyze the situation and allow for more adequate responses and, at some point in the future, plan targeted measures.
The survey was carried out in just over a week and rapidly involved about five hundred people in the two countries in the DREAM centers and in the villages included in the project. The situation of the two countries, as we know, was deemed critical. In Mozambique, the people interviewed live on average with 6 other people and are able to provide food for their family only in 2% of the cases. Moreover 95% of the cases show that the food situation is worse in 2016 compared to the past, with almost all of the people interviewed reporting an increase in prices. The same can be said about Malawi, except for the presence of a strictly rural environment which renders the population particularly vulnerable to climate change and challenges connected to food storage: about 80% of the people interviewed claim it is hard to find food from October to January. In Malawi only one person in four has access to a protein-based meal more than two times a week.
This data is just another piece of the puzzle in describing the very difficult situation which is the current food crisis in Southern Africa. Malnutrition, particularly child-related, is far from being solved in Africa, but instead requires urgent investments and interventions. DREAM has been fighting malnutrition for almost 15 years. Over the course of these years about one million food parcels were delivered to Africa and thousands of children had daily access to a meal at the nutritional centers managed by DREAM in the continent.
The project on famine of the Italian Cooperation together with the DREAM program and other partners answer to the challenges of the African continent.