Ciara Smyth is a U.S. Fund for UNICEF donor. She recently joined a field visit to Angola.
After gaining independence in 1975, Angola spent the next 27 years in civil war. The country has only been at peace since 2002. We visited the country last month to see how UNICEF is contributing to the country’s 8 years of transition from war to development.
We started in Andulo, a province ravaged during the civil war. Hundreds of thousands fled the region to become displaced persons in the capital. If they stayed put, they became amputees, widows or orphans.
We visited a health care clinic for mothers and children that has been improved through funding from UNICEF and other partners. The clinic director gave us the tour, starting with a new surgery unit, which, while very basic and not yet operational, is a big plus for the clinic.
|Melissa Madzel for the U.S. Fund|
|Mothers and children participating in a Community Health Day in Betatela in the Andula Municipality.|
There was a sea of pregnant women waiting outside the clinic, some with babies, others expecting. Inside was packed with pregnant women, too. We visited on what seemed to be a very busy morning for mothers and babies. We met 2 babies born that day and we saw up close the vaccinations and HIV testing being done. The babies, as you would expect, were adorable, but the sea of faces of mothers also looked very young, and so many of them had a toddler and a newborn, or a toddler and were expecting.
We were shown into the maternity ward, where the new moms and babies were recovering and others were preparing for birth in the beginning stages of labor. I asked if drugs were given during childbirth and was happy to hear the response was ‘yes.’ However, when I asked what was administered I was told acetaminophen…tylenol. Shocking.
After the clinic we were taken to a remote village where outreach nurses were administering their mobile clinic. This was an amazing experienceWhen we pulled in there were literally hundreds of waving, smiling people and a sea of color on all of the ladies and their kids. The men, including 4 generals, stood in a line to formally meet us.
In a small, modest hut we saw babies being weighed, getting immunizations and mothers getting prenatal care. We observed one little girl being weighed. She was clearly malnourished. Her mother was given 24 sachets of food supplement for her child for a week. There’s no cost to the mom.
Throughout the day we saw kids everywhere – and mothers too. It was really great to see UNICEF people, materials and money funding so much progress. We got to see up close how challenged the circumstances are for the average Angolan but also the progress being made and the sense of pride in what they have accomplished and what they can do.
UNICEF is a big part of this progress. It was a moving and inspirational day, and I felt very privileged to be a witness to such hope and progress.