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London Canadian Red Cross worker returns from Mozambique following aid efforts in wake of cyclones

Stephanie Murphy (left) with Marcia, a Mozambican translator, and Jaime Burgoyne, a labour and delivery nurse from Brandon, Man. Canadian Red Cross

A London Canadian Red Cross worker is sharing her experiences on the ground in the southeast African nation of Mozambique.

Stephanie Murphy recently returned from the country after assisting in widespread aid efforts there following two devastating cyclones.

READ MORE: Death toll from Cyclone Idai could be more than 1,000, Mozambique’s president says

The first to hit was Cyclone Idai, which left more than 1,000 people dead in four countries in March, including at least 600 in Mozambique. It’s considered the third deadliest cyclone to ever take place in the southern hemisphere.

A second cyclone, Kenneth, struck northern Mozambique just a month later.

The two disasters caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage to a country that is ranked among the poorest in the world.

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READ MORE: Canada will give $3.5 million to aid African nations reeling from Cyclone Idai

The Canadian Red Cross set up at a hospital in the district of Nhamatanda, an area heavily impacted by Cyclone Idai.

“We set up a cholera treatment centre, as cholera was identified as one of the key concerns after the cyclones,” said Murphy.

“Later, part of [the centre] was transitioned into a malaria treatment centre. There were about 38,000 cases of malaria in Mozambique after the cyclones,” she said.

READ MORE: Cholera cases in Mozambique rise as country reels from effect of Cyclone Idai

Murphy said local doctors and Red Cross health workers treated some 200 cholera patients in two months and 60 malaria patients in one month.

She added that they were able to close their cholera and malaria treatment units and integrate them fully into the local hospital.

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Virginia and Elizabeth, two of the daily workers at the Red Cross Emergency Hospital in Nhamatanda, Mozambique. Canadian Red Cross
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Sebastiana and her mother Anna outside the Red Cross cholera treatment unit at Nhamatanda District Hospital. Sebastiana was the last patient to be discharged from the cholera treatment unit. Canadian Red Cross
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Dr. Fernando speaking to Gloria, whose daughter Saio is being discharged from the malaria treatment centre. Saio was in the centre for one week after coming in with severe malaria. Canadian Red Cross

As part of the communications team, Murphy’s job on the ground focused on documenting aid efforts and people’s stories.

She said damage from the cyclones was widespread, and most didn’t escape unscathed.

READ MORE: Nearly 2 million people affected by Cyclone Idai’s devastation in Mozambique, UN says

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“There were three young people, siblings, who were actually working at our hospital in different capacities. One was an administrator, one was a cleaner and one was a translator,” Murphy said.

“Their mother’s house had been almost completely destroyed so the three of them got jobs at the Red Cross hospital so they could help pay to rebuild her house.”

Right before she left, Murphy had the chance to speak to the last cholera patient they helped, a 10-year-old girl who had come in with a severe case of the disease.

READ MORE: Cyclone Idai — Estimated 900,000 children orphaned, separated or impacted in Mozambique

“It was just this incredible moment where her mother didn’t speak English and I didn’t speak Portuguese but you could kind of understand what the other was saying,” Murphy said. “She just kind of lit up when she was talking about how happy she was that her daughter was feeling better and she gave me a big hug after.”

Back at home, Murphy said the experience was extremely rewarding and put the privileges many Canadians enjoy in perspective.

—With files from Jacquelyn LeBel and Matthew Trevithick

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