Village Life

June 8th

typical mozambican housing

Typical housing in the rural areas.

The first few days in Mozambique, I walked with one of our health promoters through the villages. I wanted to see if our work was in fact working. We focus on three health issues in Moz: cholera, malaria and HIV.

laughing at my request to take her photo

Our work is in five rural villages near the port city of Beira. My traveling companions and I walked with the health worker from home to home, speaking with the villagers enrolled in our program and observing.

great smile 2

The good news is that the cholera and malaria projects are working. People are sleeping under mosquito nets and they are treating their water with chlorine (bleach) before drinking it.


The bad news is that HIV is getting worse — much worse. Some estimates have it at 70% in these rural areas.

she deserves to see her daughters grow

This is the mother of three I wrote about. She is holding her youngest, a one-year-old daughter who is severely malnourished.
Again, I’m not sure what can be done, but I am spending every bit of energy I have at the moment trying to figure something out. There are so many challenges to public health programming when it comes to HIV. You’re essentially trying to get people to change their sexual behaviors, or at least modify them. Politics, religion, economics and culture all play roles in sexual behavior. You can imagine how difficult it is to create one program that works. If changing behavior were easy, all Americans would be thin, we’d wear sunscreen and our seat belts daily and we’d be smoke-free. Point being, getting people to change their routine is very difficult — without the language, cultural, racial and educational barriers I face with this project.

malnourished 1 year old, mother dying of hiv

She ate what we had to give — a protein bar.

Back to the books, the research and the conversation. I’m not giving up.

Posted in
Africa, Journal, Photography, Public Health
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10 Responses

  1. People are always many pronged in the their lifestyles. You’d think with HIV decimating so much of Africa the other countries would figure out that it doesn’t stop at a border and do something here as well as there. But, as you so wisely point out, it will take a many pronged approach. Do we have the time, the will and will we even try. Humanity is seems is on trial.

  2. Your work is absolutely fascinating to me; I really appreciate you sharing so much of what you see. The fact that you were able to see progress with at least 2 of the issues must be really encouraging, despite the heartbreak that goes with the HIV epidemic. Such important work you’re doing!

  3. you’re the latest addition to my many role models….
    thank you for sharing your experiences with me. you’re teaching me things i just can’t get from books. the pictures help as well, i am a very visual learner even though i enjoy reading. it always amazes me that the most beautiful people live in the poorest areas in so many respects.

  4. Kelli,

    While you were gone my church had a graduation service with a blessing that spoke so much of what you have said in these Moz posts. It’s on my blog, anyway, your message and determination is so powerful and inspiring. Thanks so much for giving us a window to it all.

  5. I’ve read statistics about HIV in Africa that are just heartbreaking. It must be encouraging to find that at least part of the health projects are working. It’s so inspiring to read about anyone making an effort to help these people. Again, thank you for sharing.

  6. It’s heartbreaking that HIV/AIDS continues to decimate such a huge portion of the population. At least you are doing something about it. And educating me and helping me to open my eyes just a little more. You should also take great pride in the programs that are working to educate about and reduce/eliminate cholera and malaria. That face – adorable and heart wrenching all at once.

  7. Hi Kelli,

    First, a big congratulations and thanks to you and the people that helped you put together the gift baggies. I’m sure that was a gesture that will be remembered for a long time by the recipients of those goodies.

    I’m encouraged to hear that Malaria and Cholera prevention practices are going well in the rural areas where you work. As for HIV, it is extraordinarily complex, as you stated, and I personally don’t think there will be much positive change in the current and next generations. I’m glad there are more hopeful people out there doing field work, such as yourself.

    What this post really made me consider, though, has to do with another complicated situation – posting photos of people on the internet, in particular people that are in precarious positions in terms of their health or their economic status.

    On the one hand, posting photos such as these has the potential to raise awareness among the people that read blogs, look at Flickr or have other access to the images. I see the benefit in this; the photos are certainly compelling, and I know that they can be a powerful tool in bringing about human compassion.

    However, I can also see the other side. Did these people give their permission for their photos to be on the internet? In particular, was the woman who is HIV positive and in effect on her deathbead okay with the idea that she would be outed on the internet and shown along with her malnourished child? Chances are, the subjects of these photos will never even see your blog or know that they were on the internet, but that is beside the point.

    I know that your work and any photos you may have posted here are done with great respect and only the best intentions. I am not singling out your blog or your photos – they were just what spurred me to think about this.

    What is the best way to show photos and raise awareness while respecting the privacy and rights of the subjects being photographed? What is the line between awareness and exploitation?

  8. oh kelli that last picture just broke my heart.
    you could see how hungry she is and would anything. i’m sure you wished you had protein bars for all of them.

  9. Oh my, this is tough to take. The plight in Africa has been on my heart for a while. As a mother, I feel for those mothers and the children. I feel helpless as well. I’m looking for small ways to help, because I think if we all do something small it will become something big. The MCC (Menonite Central Committee) does a lot of work in these areas. If you visit their website, they have instructions for making AIDS kits to send to Africa that include essentials for victims of the disease. They also include instructions to make a drawstring bag to put all of the items in. I’m planning to take this to my neighborhood and see how many kits we can get together in July.

    Keep up the good work. I’m living vicariously through you.

    Are you still accepting goodie bags for the trip to Bolivia?