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Room 8 - Giuseppe Maggi

Ticino Doctor Giuseppe Maggi left an invaluable humanist and missionary legacy. He has

founded five hospitals in Cameroon, a work of dedication and generosity which is recounted in

a biography signed by Pastor Zachée Betché (which you can have if you wish).

Born in 1910 in Toggenburg, Giuseppe's father was an engineer from Ticino working for the

After his medical studies in Paris and Lausanne, Giuseppe Maggi first practiced in La Chaux-

de-Fonds, then in Val-de-Travers, where he opened his own medical practice. His deep faith

was obvious, and it did not go unnoticed in the local Catholic parish, which always

supported its commitment to Africa. However, his medical skills were also very

estimated by the population.

In 1949, he ventured into Africa, first to Tanganyika, among the White Fathers, at the foot of

Kilimanjaro. Workaholic and hyperactive, Giuseppe Maggi pushed those around him to the limit, including

including the nursing sisters who surrounded him. He was also very demanding of the missionaries,

sometimes treating them as lumache (snails in Italian). However, he perceived the immense needs

of the local population and accepted no excuse for not responding to them. This determination

of iron, combined with a fiercely independent spirit, characterized his entire career.

1951, Giuseppe Maggi settles in Cameroon, first in Omvan, near Yaoundé, then in St-André,

where he founded his first hospital. The word  at the time meant much more than it does today: it

involved designing the plans, hiring workers, digging the foundations, building,

then to train the nurses. In this, Maggi was precious, because wherever he went, the nurses and

nurses acquired exceptional expertise. They were able to operate

the hospital even in the prolonged absence of the doctor and to carry out operations by themselves.

1959, with hospitals and dispensaries in the region functioning to Maggi's satisfaction, he decided to

take two trucks to go to the North of Cameroon, 1,200 kilometers away. He

settled in Tokombéré, a large village at the foot of the Mandara mountains, a particularly


Giuseppe Maggi wrote in October 1961: Foreigners who come here are surprised, sometimes

humiliated, to still find human beings who live in such conditions and thank

heaven for not being born here. The Kirdis only have a rudimentary hoe, a type of

sickle, a metal pipe, a small bow and sometimes a spear. Their hut contains only two or

three terracotta pots for water and cooking. No clothes, no blankets, for a bed

board measuring 120 x 35 cm. However, these people are active, friendly and cheerful.

Associating with a Southern Cameroonian priest, Baba Simon, he developed a deep friendship,

based on faith. Doctor Maggi was much more than a humanitarian, he was a lay missionary

The Maggi-Baba Simon tandem worked wonderfully and managed to defuse conflicts

ancestral ties between local ethnic groups.


However, tragedy struck in 1961 when the Maggi hut burned to the ground, taking with it

her his equipment, his books, his rifles (because he was also an accomplished hunter) and all his memories.

Many would have given up at this point, but Maggi bounced back. The disaster aroused a strong outpouring of

solidarity in Switzerland. Television got involved, articles multiplied in the press, and a

support association was formed in Ticino. Donations poured in.

In 1966, Maggi founded another hospital in Petté, further north. Later he settled in Zina, a region

of swamps flooded for up to eight months a year. The doctor traveled the region by speedboat,

operating himself when he couldn't be in the hospital. A young doctor, Dr. Felix Küchler,

who came in 1979, left a vivid description of Maggi's medical practice:

On a medical level, Dr. Maggi knew how to adapt to local conditions. He trained during stays

in Europe, becoming a versatile specialist who did not reject old methods. He

maintained certain treatments from the pre-antibiotic era until his death. These treatments can

seem terrible today, but they were effective and inexpensive. For example, he used

intravenous alcohol injection to treat severe infections such as pneumonia. Certainly,

the patient fell into a deep drunken state, but the alcohol killed the bacteria without causing any

excessive damage.

In 1973, Maggi in Mada, in the very north of Cameroon, Maggi created his last hospital, where he rests

From now on. Today, most of his works continue to serve, Like Dr. Aurenche, one

of his successors, declared: "He is the founder. Without him, nothing would have been done.

One of the most sincere biographies of Giuseppe Maggi was written by Zachée Betché, who was

a long time pastor in the canton of Neuchâtel. “The mirrored gaze, of a Black man reflecting on the

work of a white man in his own country, is as fascinating as the man himself.” Giuseppe

Maggi had a strong character, sometimes angry, but his magnificent humanity always

Safe. Zachée Betché, who preferred him to Albert Schweitzer, offers profound reflections on the

relationship between Maggi and the natives: Certainly marked by the vision & primitivist who saw in

these populations the barely evolved cousins of cavemen, Maggi nevertheless knew how to avoid

many pitfalls. Neither angelic nor condescending towards Africans, he did not hesitate to

pushing missionaries and civil servants when it came to saving the other. And to love him.

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