When Lalaina received news of her daughter’s surgery date, she was so happy. This was not the first time she had waited for something so precious. After her son turned five years old, Lalaina prayed and waited for 10 years before she could finally conceive again. So, she named her daughter, Anjara, meaning ‘destiny,’

“She is a very funny and wise baby. She will get to know you first before she smiles or plays with you,” Lalaina fondly said.

Anjara, who has become extremely attached to her mother, was born with bilateral cleft lip 10 months ago. Since then, her mother, having already heard about Mercy Ships in 2015 had been praying for the ships’ return to Madagascar.

“I thank God that Mercy Ships is here, so they can help fix my baby’s cleft lip,” she said in gratitude.

A Commitment to the Island Nation

In February 2024, the Africa Mercy arrived in Toamasina, Madagascar to begin her fourth field service in the beautiful island nation since her departure in 2016.

“It’s a really exciting day because it’s the culmination of many years of work in preparation to return to Madagascar for our fifth-year service here in this nation,” the Africa Mercy’s Managing Director from the USA, Nathan Jansen, shared his excitement to welcome Anjara onboard as first patient of the field service.

Over the course of three previous field services, Mercy Ships has worked with the government and Ministry of Health to provide more than 6,000 surgical procedures and over 52,000 dental procedures. In addition to this, a total of 2,019 healthcare professionals in the country have received training from Mercy Ships.

Dr. Lethicia Lydia Yasmine, Madagascar’s Secretary General of the Ministry of Health believes lack of staff, reduced capacity, resource limitations, and inequality in access to surgical care are the biggest obstacles to advancing surgery and anaesthesia in the country.

For Operating Room Clinical Supervisor from the USA, Alison Herbert, this moment marks her 56th trip to the ship. Having had the opportunity to travel across Madagascar and seeing this great surgical need firsthand, she couldn’t be more elated: “I am excited to be able to get our patients onboard, start looking after them and just be able to bring hope and healing to so many people in Madagascar.”

During this year’s field service in the Port of Toamasina, Mercy Ships will offer direct medical services to more than 1,000 patients, simultaneously mentoring and training healthcare professionals to strengthen surgical and anaesthetic systems in the country.

A New Chapter

After many months of logistical duties, equipping the hospital, building relationships with the government and people of Madagascar, and selecting patients for surgery – the Africa Mercy has finally opened her hospital and operating rooms to the people of Madagascar.

“We have been doing a lot of cleaning, we’ve been checking our supplies, we’ve been doing a lot of training with our national crew, scenarios, practice runs, we’ve been setting up operating rooms, hospital wards, practicing drills – all with the goal of our first surgery,” Merryl Mackenzie, the Hospital Director from Australia said, who feels grateful for the volunteer crew onboard.

As Anjara is wheeled into one of the operating rooms of the Africa Mercy, it is officially the start of Mercy Ships operating as a two-ship fleet in Africa.

“Now we are a hospital system where we are sharing, across two ships, all our resources. So, it’s a really special moment for Mercy Ships,” Managing Director, Nathan Jansen shared with joy. “It is just amazing to span the east and west of Africa. It really is the beginning of the next chapter.”

This is also a huge moment for the newly refitted Africa Mercy following nearly two years of renovations across the whole ship to ensure an even higher quality of care for patients. The Africa Mercy is now ready to bring free and safe surgeries to those who cannot access it, beginning with Anjara.

Surgery Day, May 28

Since Anjara’s birth, Lalaina has shouldered the guilt of desiring a second child and the blame for her daughter’s cleft lip. Now, at last just two days after Mother’s Day celebration in Madagascar, Lalaina’s joy was restored.

“…Father, may your kingdom come on earth. May Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. And in Your grace and mercy may we be part of this amazing transformation. Volunteer surgeon from the USA, Dr. Gary Parker said a prayer before walking into the operating room with Anjara – while every volunteer crew aboard pausing and bowing for the prayer.

“I thank God for sending Mercy Ships to be used as an instrument to do her surgery so that she will be like other kids. So, I hope that Mercy Ships’ work will continue not only for Anjara but also for other kids who are still out there,” said Anjara’s father, Mamy Jean Victor.