Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Some of the sad things we encounter.

      I want this blog to be informative and educational.  I try to have pictures of all that we do or experience.  However, there are some sad things.  There are things that I will not ever have pictures of.  Most of these concerns are health related  -  medical or dental. 
      We have already discussed some of the dental issues.  The people rarely brush their teeth.  They are badly in need of professional cleanings.  If a tooth hurts long enough, they go to the hospital and have it pulled.  Many of the people are missing multiple teeth.  It is very sad when they are children and young people.  There are young missionaries that need to have as many as ten teeth pulled before they go on their missions,  These we have personally witnessed.  There is no preventative dentistry and very little corrective dentistry.  There are some well trained dentists and even some orthodontists here.  However, the native people that can access these professionals are very few. 
      For medical needs, everyone goes to the hospital.  It is much like the poor at home that use the emergency room as their primary care.  The hospital is not much more than a very poorly run and poorly equipped medical center.  Nothing is sterile or even clean.  People line up and may be  there all day long waiting.  There is no one in all of Vanuatu that can culture anything.  There are only a few labs that do blood work. Maternity care is practically nonexistent.  Even newborns go to an impersonal medical center. They are weighed and registered.  That is about all.
     A few examples that we have been involved in:
Fredline  -  she was working at one of the very nice resorts here.  She had to deliver an order of strawberries and champagne to a guest room after dark.  There was a ditch in the grass that she did not see.  She fell and twisted her knee badly.  The resort got her to the hospital.  There she waited all night.  When the doctor saw her, he told her to stay off of her leg and wrapped it with what looked like used gauze.  That's right - it probably wasn't even new.  Then he sent her home.  Home was a long ways away.  Thank goodness she was able to call someone to come and get her.  We found out about this two days later.  We went to see her.  We immediately went to the French pharmacy in town to see about elastic bandages or a knee brace.  We bought them and took them to Fredline and showed her how to use them.  We reinforced the idea that she must stay off of her leg.  This is all easier said than done.  Remember they do not have indoor plumbing - only outhouses.  Several days later she returned to the hospital.  They were glad she had the knee brace, but they did not have any to provide for patients that need them.  Oh, we also got Fredline an icepack to help with the swelling.  Of course, this was only temporary help.
Leku  -  Leku was expecting her fifth child.  She never did go to a doctor. Again, there are some good doctors here but only for the affluent or the expats (those from elsewhere).  Leku is a Fijian married to a Ni-Van.  She is a fairly large woman and was very large when pregnant.  The day the baby was due she was at work and didn't feel very well.  A co-worker took her to the hospital.  The doctor could not hear a heart beat from the baby.  Leku delivered a stillborn baby that day.  Apparently, she had not felt the baby moving for about a week.  And - the baby was very large - over 10 pounds.  I would guess there was some gestational diabetes involved.  Anyway, they buried the baby the next day after a short service at home. This is all too common and probably did not need to happen.
      By the way, the doctors at the hospital are almost all Chinese.  They are sent here on a yearly rotation by the Chinese government.
      Now, about some of the really sad things we see. Many of the children have lazy eyes.  It is so unnecessary for these children to have this focusing problem their entire lives.  This would be caught by any pediatrician and taken care of at home.  There are also many people missing limbs.  Because of a diet high in white rice, there is a great deal of diabetes.  The diabetes goes untreated for the most part.  Just like with the dental, no preventative measures, just amputations.
      I know that this is so much more negative than usual.  I am sorry for that.  We do love these good people and wish that life was better for them!!!!!


  1. Ah, it is not all Camelot. Life in the cold, cruel world is tough. We are so lucky in America.

  2. Hi Elder and Sister Larsen, I just found your blog and what a better topic than this one for the reason I was searching for it. My name is Jenny I have just received my invite from the Peace Corps to go to Vanuatu where I will be addressing the issues you have listed here. (except maternity) I am already linking with Dr's here in the states, (one is the elder who baptized me) to develop some fun ways to teach dental hygiene. I would love to talk with you and get your LDS perspective on some of the customs there. Also possible to link you into some of the resources we will be working on for Vanuatu. I have enabled the notify me button so when you respond it should go directly to my e-mail.

    Thank you for all the service you are doing there. I can't wait to join you all in helping the children of our Heavenly Father in Vanuatu. (I arrive Jan 25th)

    1. Jenny, Sorry it has taken so long for us to reply. We leave Vanuatu on the 15th of December, so we won't meet you. But we told the mission nurse, Sister Duke, about your coming. Get in touch with her if you have any questions. She can be reached at: haroldandleeduke@gmail.com . She can only deal with the missionaries here, but I'm sure she could answer questions you may have. These people are wonderful to work with and very loving. You will have a choice experience. Elder Larsen

    2. Thank you Elder Larsen!! Some how the reply landed in my junk file. I will reach out to Sister Duke. Thank you again.


  3. Dear Elder and Sister Larsen,
    My name is Sister VaLynne Stoddard, my husband, Elder Lee Stoddard and I received our call to Vanuatu Port Vila Mission this past Thursday August 28. It says our primary assignment will be to labor as an education specialist and member and leader support missionary. How long is your mission for and will you still be there when we arrive in January. We enter the Provo MTC January 19, 2015.
    Did you receive a letter from the MIssion President before you left on your mission? We were not told what language we will need so assume it is English.
    What tips can you give us? We are from Southwest Wyoming about an hour and 34ths from Salt Lake City. I am looking forward to the warm climate! We are looking forward to coming to Port Vila!

    1. Dear Sister Stoddard,
      We are thrilled to hear from you. We leave Vanuatu in December, and we live in Salt Lake. Maybe we can see you there before you come to Vanuatu. We will have served for 23 months. We love it here. The people are wonderful and very friendly. We are hopeful that they will have there first stake in Vanuatu in the next few months. If you have questions about what to bring or anything else, we will be happy to guide you. You will never need a coat of any kind. I have used a very light sweater occasionally. It does get very humid - especially by Utah or Wyoming standards. Yes, you can email or Skype with family at home.
      Love and prayers,
      Sister Larsen

  4. Dear Sister Larson,
    I would love to meet you in December if at all possible. Our son and our daughter and her family live in Salt Lake, We also have Utah Symphony season tickets so we do come to Salt Lake often. I see you will be coming home on the 15th. We leave in January and will also be there for 23 months and will come home in December 2016. My husband and I both have enjoyed reading your blog. My email is lvstoddard@bvea.net if you would like to email me?

  5. Dear Sister Larsen
    Wonderful work you are all doing.
    I will be visiting in two weeks time to help with the Helti Wik Festival in Paonangisu village teaching health promotion topics. Please contact me if you are able to advice me of the best ways to deliver health messages and suggested accommodation options