“The central highlands of Madagascar are a pretty healthy place to live, the climate is much less harsh in terms of heat and rain, and the prevalence of disease load is less and different from where we have worked before in Africa.
There is very little malaria even in the wet season, despite a lot of standing water, lakes, rivers and paddy fields. The incidence of HIV infection is low also, they say as low as 5% whereas in sub Saharan Africa it is 30%.
In SOS Children’s Village Vontovorona, medical centres run by Dr. Radu and Nurse Nanu offer medical care to the children in the Village and the wider community. This is where I am currently volunteering. All children under six get treated twice a year for intestinal worms (one tablet each) and get a vitamin A boost. There is a great recognition of viral illnesses and antibiotics are not just doled out for respiratory illness.
On Friday early evening, Dr. Radu took me to meet the older boys from the SOS Children’s Village in their house. I initially found it terribly embarrassing being formally introduced as the visiting doctor from abroad. They introduced themselves sitting on the sofas giving their age and history in the Village, before asking me about my life and how I became a doctor. I tried to respond in variable French. They asked me: “Do you know David Beckham?” and when I answered that I did not, they asked “What other footballers do you know?" After a while we all settled down; they had a TV and we talked about Africa Cup of Nations football and played dominos. Their daily timetable was on the wall; they get up at 4.30am for a breakfast which is at 5.30 am, then off to school, back at 5.30pm. And they are happy to grab the opportunity that has been given to them. I rather enjoyed the visit. Their house was quite tidy, which makes me think they must have known we were coming.
I am looking forward to moving onto Timatave, the old pirate haunt on the slightly moister and cyclone prone east coast of Madagascar."