No doubt the 15 of April 2020 was marked as an historic date in the Malagasy calendar: An Ethiopian cargo , the “Solidarity Flight” transporting equipment and medical supplies – organized by the United Nations World Food Programme, the United Nations World Health Organization and the African Union, donated by the Prime Minister of Ethiopia Abiy Ahmed and Jack Ma Foundation – touched the grounds of Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar, to dispatch it to medical doctors, healthcare workers and patients facing the struggle of covid19. As of 18 April 2020, the number of cases in the island are of 117, among which 84 are currently hospitalized. 34 healed. No deaths. Just a lot of Hope and Faith for the times to come.

The UN Solidarity Flight touches the ground of Antananarivo, Madagascar, carrying medical supplies and life-saving equipment (face shields, gloves, goggles, gowns, masks, medical aprons and thermometers, as well as ventilators) on 15 April 2020 WFP/Patrick Sautron
View of Place de l’Indépendance, the main square in the capital city. I took the picture when I first arrived in Madagascar, in March of last year (2019)

Malagasy People are cheerful and natural singers. In the streets, in the houses, in karaoke cafés. Now streets of the capital city are empty and people living of informal economy (women in small businesses selling fruits and vegetables and books, bus and taxi drivers, newspapers sellers) are out of business. Due to quarantine measures, which started on 23 March 2020, only supermarkets and pharmacies can be open from 7am to 12 in the afternoon.

A cooperative of women in Southern Madagascar, working on transforming cassava into gari – a flour-based ingredient used to bake, and of conserving fish for a longer period of time using natural ingredients, such as salt. Refrigerators are seldom found. I took the picture in one of my work travels there

We are at home safe, working from home to respond to the crisis and help women and vulnerable people in urban areas with cash-transfers via mobile phones – to provide support in terms of social protection and safety nets. We are distributing take-home rations for children who cannot go to school because of temporary closure of all schools. In food distributions, we keep social distancing, and do sensitization sessions on handwashing with soap and water, covering mouth and nose if sneezing or coughing, keep distance of 1 meters minimum.

And, in the meantime, health workers protect us, by staying alive and caring about covid19 patients. We should think about them. I thank Arianna for her initiative #FirstRespondersFirst, taking care of the mental health and the practical equipment that health workers need to be on the frontline to fight covid19; There is a chance for us to donate and increase their well-being, here.

As United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres stated “a COVID-19 vaccine may be the only thing that can bring back “normalcy,” hoping for just that before the end of the year”.

We are on the same life boat, more than ever, with musical artists showing up for a global One World #TogetherAtHome Concert on 18/19 April 2020 streamed online to gather funds to continue the scientific research for a vaccine.

On the same boat, we must show appreciation and deep thanks to the life that we have been given, and try to be strong and help others.

As for me, my life has not changed so much, working harder to provide food and nutritional assistance to people in need, and to communicate and coordinate with teams and colleagues in different corners of the world. I keep skype on for my family members in Italy, I listen to more music, my favorite radio station is BBC Radio 2, and I keep a nice stock of vanilla biscuits, fruit juices and pasta in the kitchen cabinet, and lots of water.

As Madagascar has taught me, we must help one another, as a community of people caring for one another . The”Fihavanana” is a Malagasy word encompassing the concept of friendship, goodwill between beings, both physical and spiritual. For Madagascar, people are more important than money. It is about relationships: the belief that we are all one blood and that how we treat others will eventually be reflected back to us; and that we should be proactive about goodwill for the good of the world. Fihavanana is not limited to the present, but also applied to the spiritual world.

a marvelous sea in the Indian Ocean – Fort Dauphin, in the South of Madagascar

Stay happy, breathe deep & think about the Bright Future ahead,


Twitter @GaiaParadiso