Earlier this month, a group of Red Crossers traveled to Madagascar to participate in a two-week children’s health campaign aimed to protect against measles and malaria. The project was led by the government of Madagascar and supported by the Measles Initiative.
Below you’ll find a first-person account of the trip by my colleague Michael Oko:
On our first day, we travel to the coastal town of Toliara. As I get out of our jeep, I am immediately surrounded by children. Small smiling faces and waving hands compete for my attention. It’s a scene familiar to anyone who has traveled in a developing country. Looking more closely, I notice that almost none of the children have shoes. Their feet and legs are caked with dust. Their noses are runny. Many of them have sores or rashes on their skin. It doesn’t take long for me to remember this is not a holiday – we are here to help these children.
This is the first mass health campaign that I have seen. It is an amazing process. Over two weeks, millions of children under five years old will receive measles vaccines, Vitamin A, de-worming medicine, and insecticide-treated mosquito nets for malaria prevention.
One-by-one mothers bring their children to receive shots, medicine and nets. Many children wriggle and cry—more out of fear than pain—as they receive the vaccinations, but the mothers walk away happy, a child under one arm and a mosquito net under the other.
The air is hot and dry, but soon the rain will come, and with it malaria-carrying mosquitoes. In the town of Morondava, a doctor at a local hospital tells me that during the rainy season she will see at least a child a day with severe malaria. 30 children per month in this small community alone.
My final stop is at a primary school. Children wear green uniforms and sit around tables in a simple classroom. The teacher asks them to say their names in English. Shouts and giggles emerge. They are proud and smile easily. These children are the next generation, and their future is coming quickly.
As I prepare to leave, I wonder about what will become of the children we’ve seen. I will leave here knowing that we—the government, international agencies, volunteers and communities—have made a difference in improving many children’s health and, hopefully, their future.
Filed under: International