But in the remaining very, very poor countries where malnutrition is a major issue as it is here in Madagascar, noma causes devastation to individuals, families and their tribes.
Noma is an opportunistic bacterial infection. It’s caused by the same bacteria that live in our mouths and noses but our immune system keeps those bacteria at bay, keeps them under control.
If you are weakened by malnutrition or a general systemic illness like measles, if you survive that when you recover and are already in a malnourished condition then the bacteria gets the upper hand. In a period of two or three days you have this rampant infection that spreads from around the teeth or around the nose into the tissues of the face.
It destroys the soft tissue. The destruction happens between 7 and 10 days and then after that whatever has died sluffs away. The bone underneath is exposed, it dies and it sluffs away. You’re left with these horrific defects.
Sometimes you’ve just lost your lips, which is bad enough. Other times you’ve lost your lip, your cheek, your nose, your eye. Big holes in your face that are terrible.
90 percent of the children die, 10 percent survive. Who we see are the survivors. Sometimes they’ve had noma when they were three or four and we meet them when they’re 40.
They’ve been living without their nose, without their mouth, without their cheek for all those years. Hiding away, coming out at night to get food because the stigma is so very severe.” – Dr. Gary Parker, Chief Medical Officer, Africa Mercy
Mercy Ships performs numerous reconstructive facial surgeries on noma victims, affording them a chance to lead normal lives. We contribute to the eradication of noma through community health education, dental programs and water and sanitation teaching. Poverty, malnutrition, poor oral hygiene, lack of sanitation, and diseases, particularly measles, all contribute to the risk of noma.
During the month of February 2016, the Food for Life (FFL) Program was able to be a blessing in the lives of very poor community farmers living in Arivonimamo. This community is 45km from Antananarivo where the training site is located.
The community farmers attend a church called “Shalom” which is pastored by Pastor Andriamanasitefy. Shalom has sent one person to the FFL Mada 2 training through one of our partner NGO’s called Mercy Ministries.
The project we implemented in that community is called “Seed Project” and helped 15 different families. Seed projects are very small scale ideas that we have and implement in a community that brings very big impacts.
FFL trainees took many days to really plan for this seed project which was teaching community farmers the goodness of an Organic Family Garden that helps them solve some of their nutritional problems. The community farmers selected were the poorest in that community. FFL trainees, after discussing with these farmers about the challenges they faced each day in their farming activities, gave them some teachings on how to make good use of their land.
During three good days of interaction, many of these very poor families benefited from the training in:
– Nurseries with cabbage, eggplant, lettuce, and squash as participants brought seeds with them
– Compost beds
– How to make natural insecticide
The trainees were very inspired when they finished their internship assignment. This method helped the future trainers to understand certain realities of the field and how to address them and at the same time “Be Friend to a Farmer”.
On Sunday morning all the participants attended the local church, Shalom, to report to the whole church on what they have helped with during the three days. One of the farmers shared a testimony about Mercy Ships Food for Life Program and said:
“I am so grateful to Mercy Ships for this wonderful and unique opportunity. No one has ever done this for us for free. Even if we have to pay to get training it will never be like what Food for Life has given us. This impact will stay even for 300 years because we will teach our children and they will pass it on to their children as well. Many thanks to all the Participants and especially to Mercy Ships.”
Christina and Christine, nurses from the Ship, took the journey with us on Saturday to visit these families and see how God has used our FFL participants to be a blessing to the community of Arivonimamo. Then Martha Rodriguez, CBSP HOPE Center Manager, and her daughter Loren came to visit while the participants were giving their reports.
Written by Eliphaz Essah, Agriculture Projects Facilitator
For the past five months we have reaped the benefits of having Joanne Thibault as an (almost) full-time volunteer here in our Mercy Ships Canada office. Alumni members will remember Joanne as a crew member, Communication Team Writer and Engineering Administrator during her three years of service on board the Africa Mercy. Joanne served in Togo, Guinea; Congo and Madagascar.
This past fall, Joanne drove from Ontario and rented accommodations here in Victoria with the purpose of helping to develop a Speaker’s Network. Tasks involved data base grooming, HR record verification and finally reaching out to our Alumni to determine who might be willing to be a Mercy Ships speaker. Resources were identified and ‘how to’ tip sheets and reports written. Along the way, several speaking events were booked and finalized. Throughout the process, Joanne opened thousand of volunteer records and contacted hundreds of volunteers.
With her project here complete, Joanne now returns to Ontario via Minnesota -where she will resume previous volunteer activities at a Monastery located there. During that time of service, Joanne hopes to hear that her next assignment will be ready to start in the summer – volunteering with the Scarborough Mission in British Guiana. A consummate volunteer, Joanne gives her exceptional skills to a variety of endeavours including animal rescue,environmental, advocacy, spiritual and heath initiatives. As a professional volunteer, Joanne continues to sacrifice self for the needs of others.
The good news is that in return for all of her efforts here, Joanne fell in love with all that Vancouver Island has to offer. When her next volunteer assignment is complete, Joanne plans to pull up her Ontario roots and become a full-time transplant here in the Pacific north-west.
(Who can blame her?)
We thank Joanne for her excellent and hard work here at Mercy Ships Canada. We are pleased to know it is not “Good-bye”…but simply…“See you later”! Please pray for Joanne that the path will become clear and that the next volunteer chapter will evolve as it should.
Safe travels Joanne!