Kraków doctors travel to Madagascar on medical aid mission

Seven doctors from the southern Polish city of Kraków will leave for Madagascar on October 20, where they will help patients at a hospital in the second biggest city, Antsirabe. They will take with them PLN 17,000's worth (EUR 3,900) of medical equipment.

Leaving from Katowice (Southern Poland) airport on October 20, the doctors will return to Poland on November 4. At the hospital in Antsirabe, which is run by Polish Franciscan nun Sister Małgorzata Langer, they will try to help as many patients as possible by examining, diagnosing and operating. They plan to perform as many as 100 operations.

The average life expectancy in Madagascar is 45 and about 30 percent of the population is malnourished. "It is primarily child and infant mortality that bring down the average life expectancy," Jerzy Friediger, director of the S. Żeromski Specialist Hospital, told a Tuesday press conference.

Lidia Stopyra, a paediatrician and specialist in infectious diseases who is also going on the mission, underscored that in malnourished children, even diseases that seem unthreatening in Poland can be terminal. "Child mortality as a result of infectious diseases is enormous," she commented. "Diseases in the region include malaria and parasitic diseases."

Mortality of mothers in Madagascar stands at 450 deaths per 100,000 births, in Poland it is a little over 4. In Africa, the cause of death is often a lack of birth facilities or unhygienic conditions.

The hospital in Antsirabe is run by a Franciscan missionary, Sister Małgorzata Langer. The hospital team counts 70 people, educated in Madagascar, with only one performing operations. The hospital takes care of about 150 people a day with the maternity ward overseeing 1,200 births a year. There are not the conditions, space or equipment to help everybody.

The Polish doctors' trip is being financed by the Polish Foundation for Africa. The foundation would like to rebuild the hospital in Antsirabe and has started a fundraising campaign for that purpose. The project foresees a second, three-storey building next to the current one with 40 rooms and over 100 beds. The cost of the project is more than PLN 1.2 million (EUR 278,000). The foundation hopes the money will be raised by the end of this year and the new facility built in 2019.