A health center for a new generation of Angolans

The Angola miracle is a description economists sometimes give to the impressive recovery the country has witnessed since 2002 when warring factions finally put down their weapons, ending a 27-year civil war. The truth is it could take a full generation (or longer) for this recovery to trickle down to ordinary Angolans. The civil war disrupted the entire country, severely damaging the nation’s public administration and basic services, infrastructure, economy and religious institutions. In short, Angola is still struggling to rebuild.

One community rebuilding is Camabatela, a provincial capital city in Northwestern Angola. There, in 1991, rebels of the opposition party, the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), burnt down a local hospital in Camabatela, destroying a critical resource for an entire population. This brutal wartime act impacted the most vulnerable of the region. Young women and girls could no longer receive basic medical care such as pre- and postnatal examinations. And, obstetrics services were basically wiped out altogether. Courageously, The Good Shepherd Sisters of Angola went to work shortly after the attack, and in the early 1990s built a health center to handle many of the services the hospital once provided.

Today the new health center provides a number of services, such as patient-doctor consultations; pre-natal care (that includes screening for HIV-AIDS) and follow-up treatment for expecting mothers; health education and obstetrics for pregnant women; weight monitoring and vaccinations for newborns and children; recovery/post-natal care; follow-up health care services for mother and child.

In 2013 the health center served 4,195 residents from the local community. A total of 628 women attended the first pre-natal consultation and a total of 498 women attended at least a second pre-natal consultation. A total of 127 babies were safely delivered at the facility.

The GSS will now offer a preventive measure to fight diabetes, the latest public health problem and most common non-communicable disease in the area. They will screen at-risk patients - excessive alcohol and tobacco users, as well as the obese - and take blood samples to measure glucose levels. If a risk is identified, they can immediately provide information and insulin.   

To complement the clinical efforts the GSS team has also started to implement a community mobilization campaign to educate and teach the rural population about health diseases.In 2013, the staff offered information about how to prevent HIV/AIDs, malaria and typhus to about 420 residents in 9 different training sessions. They also distributed more than 100 mosquito nets.  

Space at the health center is extremely limited, and while it has evolved from a mud brick walled facility into a modern structure with delivery beds and an incubator there is still work to be done.

Support from the international donor community is needed to ensure the facility continues to offer its services and has the necessary medical supplies for 2014.