On August 3, the Africa Mercy will leave Durban, South Africa, where the ship has been receiving vital maintenance and repairs in preparation for our second service in Madagascar. In anticipation of starting our 2015/2016 service, keep reading to learn more about this fascinating country and why Mercy Ships is working there.
The capital of Madagascar is Antananarivo. On August 9th the Africa Mercy will arrive to commence her second service in the port city of Toamasina.
Off Africa’s southeast coast in the Indian Ocean, Madagascar is the world’s fourth largest island, located off Africa’s South-East coast in the Indian Ocean. Madagascar is a beautiful country with a stunning diversity of plant and animal species, many of which are found nowhere else in the world.
Madagascar is a multiparty republic with a population of over 22 million people. Its current prime minister, Jean Ravelonarivo, has greatly supported Mercy Ships and our work in the country.
Madagasikara is the name of the island in Malagasy. French and Malagasy are Madagascar’s main languages.
Madagascar’s first settlers were of African and Asian origin, and there are now 18 different ethnic groups living on the island. Asian features are most predominant in the central highlands people, and coastal people tend to show features of African origin.
Students at the Mercy Ships Agriculture Site outside Antananarivo
Most of the population depends on farming rice and cattle, with coffee, vanilla, and seafood being important exports. Unfortunately frequent natural disasters, an increasingly fragile ecosystem and poor land management have resulted in 72% of the population currently living in poverty.
Madagascar currently ranks 155th out of 187 countries in the 2014 Human Development Report (UNDP), with food insecurity and poverty being major issues. That’s why Mercy Ships volunteers will continue running the Food for Life program, working to find solutions by teaching sustainable agriculture, nutrition and improved methods of food production. Read more about the Food for Life programhere.
Tragically, poverty has resulted in stunting (low age for height) affecting 47% of Malagasy children under 5. Madagascar ranks 4th in the Global Chronic Malnutrition table. With the help of donors and volunteers, this year the Mercy Ships Infant Feeding Programwill help nourish many Malagasy babies back to health.
Fistula patients at the Dress Ceremony.
Madagascar has many preventable health issues that due to lack of money and resources have devastating effects on population. Women are particularly vulnerable, with childbirth accounting for thousands of injuries and deaths every year. Addressing an alarming need, in September 2015 Mercy Ships volunteers will lead the construction of a land-based women’s clinic that will provide care for women in need during this service and long after the ship departs. Watch this videoon the Women’s Health Program to learn more.
Our volunteers onboard the Africa Mercy are filled with stories about the kind, humble and hard-working people of Madagascar. Please visit mercyships.ca/give and help us bring hope and healing to the beautiful people of this wonderful country.