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“The health service of the vanguard of the expeditionary force of Madagascar was organized to satisfy the immediate needs of the troops under your command, but also to prepare the material means essential to the health service of the whole expedition. “
Thus began the directives given on 18 January 1895 by the French Minister of War, A. Mercier, to General Metzinger, commander of the 1st Brigade of the Expeditionary Force of Madagascar. It is responsible, inter alia, for opening access routes to Antananarivo from Mahajanga.
Its main task is to establish the No. 1 field hospital and to set up a reserve for sanitary equipment. The latter shall receive and classify all successive arrivals, and shall deliver to each troop or service corps, as and when it is landed, the equipment destined for it.
These directives touch on several points, including the availability of health facilities for eight priests, including four chaplains speaking the Malagasy language.
But above all, “we must be concerned with the influence of the marshes, that of drinking-water, insolations, nocturnal chills, and infection of the soil.” Not to mention “alcoholism, venereal diseases, etc.” “.
The thousands of troops must also be protected against smallpox before boarding. A revaccination campaign is planned once they have arrived at their destination. Likewise, against the malaria fever, all the soldiers without exception and the coolies will be subjected to the preventive treatment of quinine.
Diarrhea is no less formidable “in its frequency as in the bodily debility” it produces, even if it degenerates into dysentery. Thus, any diarrheal person must present himself to the health post as a matter of urgency, as all soldiers must not expose themselves to night-time cooling. In particular, “the most scrupulous” attention must be given to the quality of drinking water.
And above all, one must be wary of “the mixture of tafia and alcohol with drinking water; A mixture which does not destroy any of the vegetable or animal germs it contains. It has, in fact, the twofold disadvantage of not serving anything and giving a deceptive security … Alcoholism is all the more formidable because it acts on organisms anemic by the heat and the dilapidation of the digestive functions. Inevitably makes fatal diseases fatal, even in temperate countries. ” Minister A. Mercier wants to talk about cholera, dysentery and malaria.
Nevertheless, “the wine and the tafia enter the daily ration of the troop”, whose chiefs must however be concerned with “the dangers of absinthe and adulterated liquors” with
Which “the mercantis and deburrers would try to infest the troops.”
Another dangerous disease that must be preserved for the soldiers of the expedition: venereal diseases which are “one of the scourges of the Madagascan population” and which are to be treated with medicines. These diseases, however, can not “dispense men from participating in war works and operations” unless they are of “exceptional gravity”.
As a result of these detailed directives, the mobile infrastructures (hospitals, ambulances) are landed in Mahajanga and follow the advance of the troops of the 1st brigade who open the road, build bridges …
On September 29, 1895, they arrived at Sabotsy-Namehana and Ilafy, where the decisive battle took place. The next day, the Rova of Antananarivo raises the white flag, the
Capital falls.