A welcome arrival where help is urgently needed
The world’s largest hospital ship Africa Mercy arrived Madagascar on Saturday to a rousing welcome from locals in the country with a welcome party which included the country’s President Hery Rajaonarimampianina, his wife and Prime Minister Roger Kolo. Africa Mercy is owned by Mercy Ships, a charity with offices in Stevenage which uses hospital ships to deliver free, world-class health care services to those without access in the developing world.
The crew of over 400 professional volunteers from more than 40 nations including those from Great Britain will provide free medical services to Madagascar’s population of 22 million, as well as mentoring and training.
President Rajaonarimampianina said: “It is my goal to transform the nation – a nation that has suffered 50 years of poverty. We want to bring hope again to our nation. More than the medical care that you are offering, Mercy Ships is bringing life to the Malagasy peoples.”
The arrival of the Africa Mercy coincided with Madagascar’s “Year of the Volunteer” celebration. The dock festivities and celebrations were a precursor to a much larger event that took place at Hotel de Ville, where volunteers throughout Madagascar, including selected newly arrived Mercy Ships crew members, were recognized.
The ship boasts of state of the art facilities including X-ray machines and CT scanner, a pharmacy and a laboratory. There is capacity for 78 in-patients with four wards and a small intensive care unit, as well as accommodation for 450 volunteers.
A patient selection center will open in Toamasina on Monday, November 3, where patients will be screened throughout the month. All six surgical specialties (maxillofacial, plastic reconstructive, pediatric orthopedic, women’s health, general and ophthalmic) will be screened at the Toamasina site. Additional screenings will be offered in Antananarivo, as well as the highland and coastal regions of Toliara and Mahajanga in January and February.
The last time Mercy Ships provided free healthcare to Madagascar was in 1996.