Saskatoon

U of S prof working on health project in Mozambique says the country needs help

Nazeem Muhajarine, an expert in community health and epidemiology, leaves Friday for the southeast coast of Africa as part of his work with the Mozambique Canada Maternal Health Project.

Mozambique, struggling with a deadly cyclone, has close ties to Saskatoon

Nazeem Muhajarine, an expert in community health and epidemiology at the University of Saskatchewan (L) is shown here in Mozambique with Ruta Massunguine (R) one of the Mozambicans involved in the health project. (Mozambique Canada Maternal Health Project)

The University of Saskatchewan has a long standing commitment to improving the lives of people in Mozambique through the Massinga Training Centre. Never before has the need been greater.

Mozambique is struggling with the after effects of a deadly cyclone that has killed hundreds and left 1.8 million people in need of urgent help. Disease is now a major concern as people struggle to find food and clean water. The World Health Organization has warned of a "second disaster" if waterborne diseases like cholera spread in the devastated region.

A U of S professor is answering the call.

This is unprecedented and I think we need an unprecedented response.- Nazeem Muhajarine  

"It's just really heartbreaking," said Nazeem Muhajarine. "It's a human disaster that is unfolding."

Muhajarine, an expert in community health and epidemiology, leaves Friday for the southeast coast of Africa as part of his work with the Mozambique Canada Maternal Health Project.

The cyclone that has ravaged Mozambique has felt very close to home for many people here in Saskatoon. Murray Dickson and Nazeem Muhajarine spoke to Saskatoon Morning host Leisha Grebinski about the strong bond between the U of S and Mozambique. 7:53

Cyclone Idai

The Massinga Training Centre  — where dozens of students and experts from the U of S and other Canadian professionals have come to help over the years — is just an hour's drive away from the main area of devastation left behind by Cyclone Idai.

"People there are actually trying to make a better life for themselves and are actually doing quite okay in terms of progressing toward a better future, and now this happens and it is it is just heartbreaking," said Muhajarine.

A girl heats up a can of food on smouldering coals at the Samora Machel High School in Beira, Mozambique, on March 23, 2019. (Wikus de Wet/AFP/Getty Images)

Friends and family

Murray Dickson spent many years in the country, working as a dentist and mentor to both Mozambicans and students from Saskatoon who were spending time there.

"Where we used to live and the hospital itself where I was called from time to time for emergencies apparently has been severely damaged and is not functioning in many parts," Dickson said. "I wish I was younger. I wish I could be there and I wish I could just do something helpful even if it's a lot of hugging."

Muhajarine's journey is not in response to the crisis, per se. He expects to carry on with the latest project, which focuses on maternal, sexual, reproductive and newborn health, but said there is no question the work will be done "under a dark cloud."

That cloud will come not only from the devastation all around them, but also from the suffering of their Mozambican colleagues whose loved ones may have died in the storm, or are missing.

'Unprecedented response'

Both Muhajarine and Dickson are urging Canadians to donate money to organizations like the International Red Cross or the Humanitarian Coalition help ease the crisis in Mozambique. Muhajarine also urged people to speak up and demand that Canada do more.

"This is unprecedented and I think we need an unprecedented response. We need to do more."

with files from Saskatoon Morning

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