Story

Mozambique: Maternity Ward Health Workers

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Women wait outside the maternity ward at the Chokwe District Hospital in Mozambique. Image by Bridget Huber. Mozambique, 2014.

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Victor Muitiquile, a surgical technician at the Chokwe District Hospital, repairs a hernia. Image by Bridget Huber. Mozambique, 2014.

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Victor Muitiquile, a surgical technician at the Chokwe District Hospital in Mozambique. Image by Bridget Huber. Mozambique, 2014.

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Victor Muitiquile closes a stab would by the light of a cellphone after the power went out at Chokwe District Hospital in Mozambique. Image by Bridget Huber. Mozambique, 2014.

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As an obstetrics technician at the Chokwe District Hospital in Mozambique, Nilza Munambo performs cesarean sections, hysterectomies and tubal ligations even though she is not a doctor. Image by Bridget Huber. Mozambique, 2014.

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A woman awaits a cesarean section at the Chokwe District Hospital in Mozambique. Image by Bridget Huber. Mozambique, 2014.

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Nilza Mugambo delivers a baby girl via cesarean section at the Chokwe District Hospital in Mozambique. Image by Bridget Huber. Mozambique, 2014.

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After delivering a woman's third child via cesarean section, Nilza Mugambo performs a tubal ligation because the woman has decided not to have more children. Image by Bridget Huber. Mozambique, 2014.

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A new mother is recovering from a cesarean section at the Chokwe District Hospital in Mozambique. After a long and arduous labor, her son was born weak and is having trouble nursing. The day after this photo was taken, he was transferred to a larger hospital for care. Image by Bridget Huber. Mozambique, 2014.

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At the Chokwe District Hospital in Mozambique, a woman learns she's having a boy. Image by Bridget Huber. Mozambique, 2014.

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Women wait outside the maternity ward at Chokwe's District Hospital in Mozambique. Image by Bridget Huber. Mozambique, 2014.

Mozambique has had a severe shortage of surgeons for years. Today, there are fewer than 20 practicing surgeons for a population of 25 million people.

The country has come up with a pragmatic approach—it trains health workers, called technicians, who are not doctors, to do a range of lifesaving surgery. These technicians, who focus on either obstetrics or general surgery, perform the vast majority of operations in the country, particularly in rural areas. Studies have shown their patients are no more likely to have complications or infections than those treated by Mozambican surgeons.

At the 100-bed Chokwe District Hospital, two technicians, Victor Muitiquile and Nilza Munambo, handle all of the surgery. They often lack basic supplies and medications. Even the electricity is spotty.