Hope and medical care for more than 1000 prisoners

by Susanne Hausmann/RBU,  2011/10/11

In cooperation with the relief organisation Prison Fellowship International, which commits itself to supporting prisoners among others in developing countries, a humedica team once more offered their work at several African prisons in September.

Medical student Susanne Hausmann was part of this team in Madagascar and in her report she describes how necessary, useful and personally enriching this medical mission was.

For a period of two weeks, working with the patients bound the humedica team and the local partners of Prison Fellowship International Madagascar closely together. Photo: humedica

"In the middle of September, our humedica team, consisting of seven members, set out for Madagascar in order to participate in a 15-days mission "behind prison bars". Our team was composed of team manager Dr. Petra-Marina Keffel (Reddeber), deputy team manager and dentist Dr. Monika Krömer (Pölten, Austria), as well as the physicians Dr. Krystian Jaschik (Hinterschmieding), Dr. Petra Kranz-Ries (Aystetten), Dr. Gabriele Harms (Rohrdorf), Dr. Anton Freilinger (Au-Hallerau) and myself, Susanne Hausmann, medical student from Würzburg.

Our local partners of Prison Fellowship Madagascar had already done amazing preparatory work. Not only had they taken care of storing our medications, but they also had obtained all required work permits and offered us the assistance of a team of honorary employees. This honorary team included about eight German-speaking interpreters who considerably facilitated our work with the prisoners.

When we visited the first prisons, among them also the Antanimora Prison in the capital Antananarivo with its about 3000 inmates, we were faced with highly problematic prison conditions. Hygienic conditions were alarming, the prison yards were often overcrowded and many of them even lacked access to clean drinking water.

As medical care at Madagascan prisons generally is rather rudimentary, for the prisoners it was a special event to be treated by the professional humedica doctors.

Due to the dirty drinking water, many of the prisoners reported gastro-intestinal complaints, and many of them also suffered from helminthiasis or fungal diseases. On a whole, our doctors encountered a broad range of disease patterns that could either be treated directly or by means of the drugs we could provide.

Dr. Anton Freilinger treating a patient. Treatment ranged from small interventions and examinations to dental extractions and surgeries. Photo: humedica

Less frequent treatments that were, however, all the more necessary included minor "surgeries", like for example removing a broken knitting needle from the throat of one of the inmates.

Some of the persons we met told us their stories, which were very touching. Although we did not ask anyone about their crimes, for many of them it was important to improve the bad image society has of them. They feel shunned and alone, although in some cases it has never been completely resolved if they are guilty or not.

Often, they have been in custody for years and are waiting for a trial that is probably never going to take place. They did not only express their gratitude in words, but also by means of their disciplined behaviour. We were all positively surprised by how uncomplicated it was to work at the prisons.

There was no pushing or shoving, the prisoners were calm and polite and we never felt threatened or in danger. That was also confirmed by our doctors who had already taken part in several humedica missions in cooperation with Prison Fellowship International (PFI).

Our hard-working dentist, Monika Krömer, was a particular enrichment to the medical team. During our mission of two weeks she extracted 560 teeth. By doing so she relieved several of the prisoners from years of terrible pain. Her patients left the treatment room with a swollen cheek, but also with a radiant smile.

Also our joint statistics speak for themselves and show how useful our work was. Of about 5000 prisoners we encountered at different prisons - most of them men, but also some women and children - we could treat 1300 inmates who were in urgent need of medical treatment.

The close and effective cooperation with Prison Fellowship Madagascar has by all means contributed to this result of our work, which was satisfying for all of us. We put great trust in our local partners and we are convinced that they will continue the project in an effective and reliable way also after our departure.

We also encountered many children among the prisons' inmates. They either committed a crime themselves or they grow up behind the prison walls because their fathers or mothers have been imprisoned. Photo: humedica/Susanne Hausmann

Our Madagascan interpreters not only helped us to communicate without problems; they also became dear to us as good friends. Also Samuel, the regional head of PFI for Franco-African countries accompanied us to every prison and ensured that our team could work in a safe environment and without disturbances.

I would above all like to thank my team colleagues: you inspired me greatly with your amazing work. With your friendly and open-minded attitude every single one of you contributed to a harmonic team atmosphere.

And last but not least, our special thanks goes to the heart of humedica, the employees in Kaufbeuren. Thanks to your elaborate planning and preparations you enabled us to implement this wonderful mission.

Susanne Hausmann"

For missions that are planned in advance and implemented according to a fixed schedule, like for example the cooperation with PFI, our members of our medical teams not only take out their annual holidays or close their practices, but they also cover the travelling costs themselves. Please support this branch of the humedica relief aid by means of a targeted donation. Thank you very much!

      humedica e.V.
      Donation reference “PFI
      Account 47 47
      Bank Code 734 500 00
      Sparkasse Kaufbeuren

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