Tales from the Crypt: Angola’s Hidden Hospital Horrors

Morgue Tax “Sick people don’t have to pay.  Only the dead.” At face value, this remark from one of the administrators of the Regional Hospital in Cafunfo, in the province of Lunda Norte seems to make no sense.  Then clarity emerges: the town does not have electricity. The living have to put up with no electricity.  But the families of the recently deceased are forced to pay “for a day or two’s refrigeration in the morgue” or deal with the gruesome consequences of a decomposing corpse. Cecilia Matias was only sixteen when she died from yellow fever.  Her Aunt, Madalena Matias revealed that that the grieving family had to find the equivalent of nearly four hundred dollars for Cecilia’s body to be preserved while they arranged her funeral. “We bought two {200 litre) barrels of diesel at the pump, at a cost of 64.000 kwanzas, to keep Cecilia’s body preserved […]

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The Morgue.

It’s barely 2am at Luanda’s Josina Machel Hospital, the largest in Angola, but already vehicles are queuing in a long line at the entrance. Most carry coffins.  Others bear the unboxed bodies.  Over the next five hours they will remove the mortal remains of 235 luckless Angolans for burial.  It will be at a rate of a coffin for each 1.20 minutes. This macabre harvest is routine. The Angolan government can massage the statistics but it only takes one observer to stand and count, as, one by one, grim-faced morticians and weeping relatives carry away the dead. Angola is in the grip of a yellow fever epidemic that the authorities would prefer to downplay. Malaria too is reaping a rich harvest.  This year, these two treatable conditions are the main causes of death in Luanda, an overcrowded metropolis of more than six million souls. The tiny few who make it […]

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The Children’s Corridor of Death in Angola’s Second Hospital

There are more than 40 people in the room, most of them sitting or lying on their cotton wraps on the floor. The heat is unbearable, as is the stink of sweat and dirt.  The windows are permanently left wide open to try to offset the stifling, oppressive atmosphere. It doesn’t help.  Just outside the windows at the back of the building, broken sewers add a horrible, nauseating stench to the air.  This sorry scene is repeated in every ward in the paediatric block, where relatives lie prostrate the length of the corridors, unable for lack of space to get any closer to their sick children. Welcome to the Paediatric Unit of Américo Boavida Hospital in Luanda, named for a doctor turned freedom fighter, known in the field as ‘Ngola Kimbanda’ (the chief healer).  He must be turning in his grave.  It’s the second largest hospital in Angola – only […]

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Yellow Fever Epidemic in Luanda Claims Three Siblings

An epidemic of yellow fever on the outskirts of the Angolan capital, Luanda, which has already claimed an estimated 100 lives, has scythed through one family , taking three of their four children in a single day.  The siblings, Mauro Julião dos Santos (7), Sofia Juliao dos Santos (5) and Lucrécia Julião dos Santos (3) succumbed to the fever within 24 hours of showing symptoms.  The youngest sister, Natália Julião dos Santos (1) is fighting for her life. The cause of death has been confirmed by Cajueiros hospital, which issued death certificates stating that the children died from yellow fever.  Tragically, the family – despite sharing a name with the Angolan President, Jose Eduardo dos Santos – is so poor that they cannot even afford makeshift coffins for the tiny victims.  The grandparents put out an appeal to the authorities to show compassion:  “Can the government please help us with […]

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Nair’s Death

I have often asked myself about the cost of a human life in Angola. Nair’s death pained me, but it was the pain of someone who is powerless and not able to do anything about it. In the last few days, I have been following the tragedy of a mother.   After Nair complained of headache and a backache, her mother took her to Samba Healthcare Center in Luanda. Tests were carried out and turned out positive for malaria. The staff at the clinic decided to give her a combined doze of Coartem and Paracetamol. She was also given two packets of serum “to drink at will” and folic acid.  After that, they sent her home. The family concluded that the treatment was not sufficient and, on the same day, went to the David Bernardino Pediatric Hospital. Here the doctor ordered a test in the laboratory for sickle cell anemia. The doctor […]

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The Absent President and Angola’s Future

In the last few months, health concerns have prompted President José Eduardo dos Santos to make several trips to Spain for medical treatment. According to sources who spoke to Maka Angola on condition of anonymity, the President was evacuated to Barcelona on November 9 after falling in the Presidential Palace. Maka Angola has established that the President suffered a prostatic renal crisis, which required him to spend at least 30 days under observation. This is why he missed the Independence Day celebrations on November 11 for the first time ever. A medical expert explained to Maka Angola that a prostatic renal crisis is a condition in which the urine flow is obstructed by an enlarged prostate and production of urine ceases, necessitating dialysis in the case of kidney failure. “In the case of kidney failure, a very serious and often fatal situation, patients need regular dialysis. The failure of one […]

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