UNICEF launches new campaign to stop the spread of pneumonic plague in Madagascar

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By Fatratra Lailana

TALATAVOLONONDRY, Madagascar, 15 April 2011 — UNICEF undertook a mass disinfection campaign in Madagascar’s capital, Antananarivo to prevent the spread of pneumonic plague. The campaign targeted more than 28,000 families in the most exposed districts of the capital and surrounding towns and lasted for three days.

There has been a significant increase in the number of cases of pneumonic plague reported in 2011.

According to the most recent official data provided by the Ministry of Health, more than 310 cases of plague and 49 deaths were reported by the end of March.

Serious concern

“We are seriously concerned about the increasing number of cases of pneumonic plague. It is an epidemic that spreads easily from human to human. It is a dangerous public health issue and difficult to control, especially in densely populated cities,” said UNICEF Representative in Madagascar Bruno Maes. “The majority of cases involve children; and this year, three new epidemic zones have been reported.”

In Talatavolonondry, 27 kilometers north of Antananarivo, more than 20 cases of plague – including two deaths – have been reported among the town’s 22,000 inhabitants.

“I nearly lost my life and my baby,” says Claudia Ravaoarinoro, 17, who has just given birth to her first child. “I had swollen glands at the bottom of my belly while I was pregnant. I was lucky because I was treated in time in hospital, where I stayed for a week. Unfortunately this was not the case for my sister-in-law. She was 11 and died.”

With UNICEF support, the disinfection campaign has been launched where cases of plague have been reported. Community agents are raise awareness of its importance. “Sometimes people are very reticent of this type of operation. They are ashamed that members of their families are suffering from the plague because it is a disease related to sanitation,” said Randrianjatovo, Chief of Ambohimahavelona.

National communication campaign

UNICEF is also supporting a national communication campaign involving more than 150 local radio partners and developing communication materials to mobilize communities at local level.

“The awareness of hygiene and sanitation should be permanent. Communities have to realize the importance of sanitation in their daily lives, otherwise we will always be left to take ad hoc measures like these,” said Head of Antananarivo’s Office of Hygiene Office Dr. Brigitte Rakotosolofo.