Back in Madagascar

Fourth mission of Mercy Ships in the country, following previous visits in 1996 and 2014-2016.

The Africa Mercy is back in Madagascar

Mercy Ships is back in Madagascar to bring transformative surgical education and free, life-changing surgeries. 

Freshly refitted hospital ship, the upgraded Africa Mercy has arrived at the island nation to build on the charity’s longstanding collaboration and will provide specialized surgeries in various fields, including maxillofacial and ear nose and throat, general, pediatric specialized general, pediatric orthopedic, cataract surgery, and reconstructive plastics. 

But islanders are being urged to wait to hear on local radio stations about small regional patient selection opportunities in their area for certain conditions rather than to make their way to the ship where no selections are happening.

Mission Madagascar

What is the Need for Safe Surgery in Madagascar?

The scope and rugged terrain of Madagascar, the world’s fourth largest island, means many of the population face significant challenges when it comes to accessing the care they need. After being particularly hard hit by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, for many people, the number of obstacles has only grown. The exorbitant cost of surgical equipment and the distance from healthcare services remain high on the list.

A 2016 study found that only 20% of the population can access surgical services within two hours, and up to 95% of the population would face financial ruin if they required surgery. With approximately 20 physicians for every 100,000 people, surgical treatment feels out of reach for many.

This is why, for the patients who will come on board, the opportunity to receive safe surgery represents a new beginning and restored hope — not only for themselves but often for their families and wider communities.

Back in Madagascar to enhance local partnerships

In Mercy Ships’ fourth field service, with preceding visits in 1996, 20142016, the charity will begin by focusing on enhanced partnerships and relationship-building as part of its education, training and advocacy (ETA) program in combination with building up its surgical schedule. 

Watch or revisit the RTS (Mise au Point) documentary in French on Mercy Ships in Madagascar, broadcasted in 2015 (starting from minute 20:41):

Esperant Mulumba, Mercy Ships Country Director in Madagascar, said: “We plan to spend the weeks following the ship’s arrival running patient registration in several different locations. Surgeries can only go ahead when we have a full complement of volunteers to ensure specialized surgeries can happen as planned at the end of May without delays and rescheduling.

Mercy Ships is actively collaborating with Madagascar’s Ministry of Health to identify the most pressing needs and strengthen the country’s surgical systems in the long term. Through the ETA strategy, the organization aims to increase the number of surgical providers, provide training across the surgical ecosystem, develop sustainable educational programs, establish a network of healthcare providers, and advocate for the importance of surgery in healthcare globally. 

This focus aligns with a need for quality education and training that emerged in a recent evaluation carried out by Mercy Ships in Madagascar. 

Mulumba said: “There is a huge desire within the health system in Madagascar to improve the quality of education. We will be able to leverage the availability of the ship in the port of Toamasina as a platform through which we can strengthen the surgical training program that the government has by providing residencies and other sorts of training opportunities for local surgeons, anesthetists, and other professionals of the healthcare system, particularly those related to the surgical ecosystem.”

Vanya is a young Malagasy patient who underwent surgery in 2015.

Supporting the country over the long term

Over the course of previous visits, Mercy Ships collaborated with the government and Ministry of Health to provide more than 6’425 life-changing surgical procedures and over 52’395 dental procedures. In addition to delivering life-changing surgical and dental care, Mercy Ships has a longstanding commitment to education, having trained 2’019 healthcare professionals in the past.

Mulumba added: “In our last field service, we were able to provide life-transforming, life-changing, life-enabling surgeries that have allowed the people that benefited from them to be part of the communities they come from and allowed certain people to return to their jobs. They brought a certain dimension of hope that otherwise would not have been experienced… an impact that we can’t measure. We’re seeing professors that are still teaching the simulation courses that were initiated by Mercy Ships, and we’re seeing the interns that are still benefiting from this.” 

How to volunteer with Mercy Ships: find your place on board in Madagascar

Mission Madagascar

It’s an exciting season on the horizon as Mercy Ships seeks to bring life-changing hope and healing to many more in Madagascar. But none of it is possible without the crew of volunteer professionals bringing their skills and compassionate hearts to serve on board.

There are opportunities to be at the forefront of immense change on the education, training, and advocacy team, which has open roles such as project director, clinical training coordinator, and informatics specialist. But it doesn’t end there. Ward nurses, IT professionals, cooks, teachers, plumbers, electricians — all of these and more are needed to make these life transformations happen in Madagascar and beyond.

There are still volunteering positions available in Madagascar:
find your place on board. 

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René Progin
René Progin
René is Communication and Media Manager for Mercy Ships Switzerland.

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