Opening of the new health center in Fiadanana
It is our great privilege and honor to announce that the Health Center in our village of Fiadanana has been officially inaugurated at the end of May 2014!
Now, after an official ribbon cutting ceremony, the healthcare center is ready to see patients. One of our proudest achievements is that the new health center will host the community’s own traditional healer Raleva to work side-by-side with a Ministry of Health certified trained midwife. To have such a true healing center in our village has been a dream for the community and Zahana since our very first community meeting over a decade ago. (See health center’s groundbreaking 2013.)
Raleva is one of the most respected and revered traditional healers in this part of the country. People travel far to see him and solicit his treatment advice. To honor him, and to pay him the respect that is due by providing him with a modern building where he can practice his healing art, is a very joyous occasion for Zahana. Zahana’s founder, Dr. Ihanta, told us laughingly, in a Skype conversation: “most people assume that a traditional healer is there to assist the Western trained midwife. I'm quite sure, in our case this will be the other way around and the Western trained person will work with or may be under the guidance off our highly respected traditional healer. We really like the English expression hand-in-hand to describe this relationship. Yes, we will, for instance, vaccinate all of our children with the help of the paramedic, or use antibiotics where this is the best treatment option, as part of integrating Western medicine in our Health Center. ‘Do no harm’ is our guiding principal in all of this”.
This health center inauguration gives us again a great opportunity to showcase to everybody visiting our village the importance of access to clean and safe water. There are thousands of communities in Madagascar that desperately need access to basic healthcare, but the fact that our village does indeed already have access to clean and safe drinking water made the French NGO decided to build the health center in our village.
Clean and safe drinking water remains the most effective public health measure for Zahana. It was priority #1 for the community, when we started with our participatory development in 2005. This is again illustrated in the fact, as Dr. Ihanta, Zahana's founder and a physician herself, said: "We don't need diarrhea medication or prevention, because we don't have diarrhea anymore, since the village has clean drinking water. For me as a medical doctor the most rewarding result is that no child, or adult for that matter, has died of water borne diseases, since we have clean water. It could well be that the villagers themselves are not aware of that, but for me as a physician and a parent, this is the most important and significant indicator I can think of. We determined this very important finding already over two years ago, and I am very happy this has not changed since.” Later in the conversation she added: “It is also a great savings for the Ministry of Health if we don’t have to spend money on medication or treatment of preventable diseases. This may not be too familiar for a Western audience, but in a country with scares resources this is an important factor”.
As you can see in the photos, dignitaries and representatives from different branches of government attended our health center opening. The actual ribbon cutting was by a representative of the Ministry of Water. We thought it was very important to show them firsthand by having them come into our village, that a community built water system is not only feasible, but also working very well. (See water story.) It is a great honor for us and the community he was joined (in the photo) by the brother of the President of Madagascar and his wife.
In some of the other pictures you see that Zahana was able to show to the visiting dignitaries the solar water pasteurization in action. The school of our sister village Fiarenana has been using solar water pasteurization successfully for over two years for all of the drinking water needs for their students. Since solar water pasteurization only works if the sun is shining, they have to resort to boiling water on cloudy or rainy days. Again, at Zahana we believe that seeing the results of our work might have bigger impact than just hearing about an abstract concept of solar water pasteurization.