Red Cross teams up with the Madagascar Ministry of Health in the fight against the plague

Nairobi, Kenya 17 January 2014: The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has allocated 137,131 Swiss francs its Disaster Response Emergency Fund to deliver immediate support to the Malagasy Red Cross Society following an outbreak of pneumatic and bubonic plague. Approximately 33,125 people will benefit from the intervention.

The Madagascar Ministry of Health started issuing alerts in September 2013 following reports of clustered cases of deaths and disease strongly suspected to be pneumatic plague. By October 2013, five deaths had been reported in Beranimbo village, spreading to surrounding villages and towns, creating panic and causing massive displacement of people to neighbouring villages and to Soanierana Ivongo in the Analajirofo region on the east coast. According to official sources, at least 12 cases of pneumatic plague were later reported in Soanierana Ivongo, with another unspecified number reported in Ikongo district.

Working in coordination with the Ministry of Health, the Malagasy Red Cross Society responded by identifying cases, as well as carrying out social mobilization activities to prevent the spread of the disease. Patients suspected to be suffering from the plague are being transferred to health facilities. Several evaluations are needed to identify the needs of people fleeing the epidemic, especially in the districts of Mandritsara and Soanierana Ivongo.

“IFRC will support the Malagasy Red Cross to prevent the further spread of the disease through education, facilitate the transfer of patients to emergency treatment centres, as well as train health workers on awareness raising,” said Finn-Jarle Rode, IFRC Regional Representative for eastern Africa.

225 volunteers of the Malagasy Red Cross in the five affected districts will be trained in the dissemination of appropriate messages in response to the outbreak. The focus of the operation will be on flea and rat control. IFRC will also deploy technical, health and vector control specialists to provide support to the operation.

The plague is caused by poor hygiene conditions which have led to an increase in the population of rats, as well as the number of fleas. This outbreak can be attributed to a low agricultural production that has caused the migration of rats to urban areas. Lack of access to health facilities further exacerbates the situation.

For further information, please contact:

In Madagascar:

· Mbola Ranaivomanana, Communications Officer, Malagasy Red Cross Society

Mobile: +261 341 422 156 – E-mail: com.redcross@gmail.com

In Nairobi, Kenya:

· Susan Onyango, Communications Officer, IFRC eastern Africa Mobile: + 254 734 880 087 - E-mail: susan.onyango@ifrc.org

In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia:

· Katherine Mueller, Communications Manager, IFRC Africa Mobile: +251 930 03 3413 – E-mail: katherine.mueller@ifrc.org

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is the world’s largest volunteer-based humanitarian network, reaching 150 mil­lion people each year through its 189 member National Societies. Together, the IFRC acts before, during and after disasters and health emergencies to meet the needs and improve the lives of vulnerable people. It does so with impartiality as to nationality, race, gender, religious beliefs, class and political opinions. For more information, please visit www.ifrc.org. You can also connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr.