Team Rubicon deployed its first Tanzanian Greyshirt this week when emergency medicine doctor Kilalo Mjema, of Dar as Salaam, Tanzania, joined TR’s Type 1 mobile unit in central Mozambique in response to the March 15 Cyclone Idai that caused major, widespread flooding and catastrophe infrastructure damage.
Dr. Mjema learned of Team Rubicon through Dr. Erin Noste, TR’s deputy medical director and the director of global emergency medicine at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, North Carolina. Through a World Bank grant and continued support from Carolinas Medical Center, Noste works with a Tanzanian Emergency Medicine program at Muhimbili National Hospital to develop a pre-hospital care system. Mjema graduated with a Masters of Medicine in Emergency Medicine from this program and was its chief resident.
“When Erin asked me if I would be interested to join the team deploy to Mozambique, I was thrilled,” Mjema said. She had never been to Mozambique before this week, when the team landed in Beira and began work on March 27. “I saw the chance to not only help a couple of close friends from Mozambique whose families had been affected, but as a neighboring country that could have easily been us.”
Mjema also saw this opportunity as a “great chance to learn from Team Rubicon how to respond to a disaster and to learn from the whole system” of disaster response, she said. She wants to understand how to bridge the gaps in care and to respond better to future disasters.
“I’ve realized it takes an organized system to get things going,” she said. “There must be a system in play that maintains checks so that things run smoothly for help to be offered accordingly and appropriately.” She sees Team Rubicon as an organization that not only provides great assistance in times of need, but that also provides guidance regarding what needs to be done.
Mjema said that when she was a child she was “fascinated with the white coat” of doctors, but as time went on, she realized being a doctor was about being in service to others. “There is nothing that I love to do like that,” she said. “I wanted to mostly take care of really sick children since I love kids in general.” And sadly, in Mozambique, Mjema will get to do just that; the United Nations reports that more than 1.5 million children need humanitarian and medical aid in the aftermath of Cyclone Idai.
The area is bracing for what could an outbreak of chronic diseases as the first five confirmed cases of cholera were diagnosed the day TR started its work in Mozambique. But so far, Mjema’s most interesting medical case during this deployment was the two year old who was treated for a monkey bite, something she hasn’t seen often, but she knew what to do immediately. The mother held the child in her lap while the TR team gave him ibuprofen for his pain as they cleaned and dressed his wound. They also administered an antibiotic. “You treat it like a human bite,” Mjema said, and the mother and child were advised to do an immediate follow-up with the hospital for an anti-rabies shot, something the TR team didn’t have on hand.
Mjema said, “Now onwards, I don’t think I will ever forget how to treat a monkey bite based on this experience. The team effort got this child taken care of immediately.”