From Elective Reviews - Madagascar - Hopitaly Vaovao Mahafaly, 2004 - Christelle Evans, medical elective
For my elective I went to Hopitaly Vaovao Mahafaly (Good News Hospital) in Mandritsara, an isolated region in the North-East of Madagascar. It is a relatively small hospital (40 inpatient baeds approximately) but serves a wide area, many patients travelling for miles and miles to get there. I spent my time there attending outpatients, seeing a range or common tropical diseases, and also theatre, ward rounds and eye clinics. I was deeply challenged by the simplicity of life there, the high standard of care, the sacrificial lifestyles of the missionaries and the enthusiasm of the church members.
Madagascar is a beautiful country, the people are very friendly and welcoming and the culture is very unique. Most Malagasy follow the traditions of their ancestors, which include ancestor worship and sacrifice to the ancestors. However they were the first African country to officially accept the London Missionary Society in the 19th century, and next to one of the Madagascar's most historical sites, the remains of he Queen's palace, stands a monument to the 12 men who first translated the Bible into Malagasy.
Many issues common to the third world were highlighted during my time there, poverty, miseducation (many patients in Mandritsara die of overdosing on traditional plant medicines), malnutrition and poor sanitation, and lack of health awareness. However unlike many African countries, women are held in respect by their husband and practices such as female genital mutilation are not common. As well as normal inpatient and outpatient care the hospital works very hard promoting health education in the community, and runs regular vaccination programmes and helicopter trips into the bush to reach the very isolated. Also the Church has two full time evangelists who go out into the surrounding villages preaching and planting churches. Every morning there is a service for the patients to attend followed by a health message. Care of the sick is very much linked with the gospel and Christian values in all of HVM's work.
One particular patient sticks out in my mind. There is an unexplained high incidence of Burkitt's lymphoma in and around Mandritsara, and one day a couple brought in their 10-year old daughter to be seen. She had a huge tumour visible across her face and nose, and recent onset of paraplegia and incontinence. She seemed to be in lots of pain and very bewildered. When I looked at her I think I caught a glimpse of how Jesus must have felt when people brought their sick to Him, who would otherwise be so helpless. Thankfully chemotherapy for 10 days did the trick. She regained use of her legs and the tumour shrank right down. Whilst this is not necessarily a miracle in the supernatural sense, the miracle in it for me, is that if it weren't for Jesus HVM wouldn't be there at all, and in fact we are Jesus on earth, because He has loved us enough to entrust us with that awesome privilege and responsibility. My elective highlighted for me the need to take very seriously our calling as Christians in healthcare to care for the disadvantaged and to go to the places Jesus would go to, to do the things He would do.
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