Description of the disaster
In October 2017, a plague outbreak in Madagascar raised concern in neighbouring countries. By 12 October 2017 a total 684 cases (suspected, probable and confirmed) including 57 deaths (CFR 8.3%) had been reported from 35 out of 114 districts. Of these 684 cases, 474 were clinically classified as pneumonic plague.
The Ministry of Health in Madagascar reported on 16 October that caseload was 805 (confirmed and suspected) with 74 deaths. While Madagascar is accustomed to seasonal bubonic plague outbreaks, the 2017 outbreak was characterised by a combination of pneumonic and bubonic plague. Pneumonic plague which accounted for 65% of the caseload, is transmitted from person to person and the fact that most of the cases occurred in urban areas, made this outbreak a serious concern not only for Madagascar but for the entire region.
Consequently, WHO classified the outbreak in Madagascar as a grade 2 emergency and the WHO liaison officer expressed concern of the outbreak and considered Mauritius as a priority country. He equally emphasized that preparedness was essential and stated that support could be provided.
Plague can be a very severe disease in people, particularly in its septicemic and pneumonic forms, with a case-fatality ratio of 30%-100% if left untreated. The pneumonic form is invariably fatal unless treated early, is especially contagious and can trigger severe epidemics through person-to-person contact via droplets in the air .
Through this DREF operation, Mauritius RC was granted CHF 39,650 for plague preparedness for 315,750 people (25% of the caseload) at risk for 03 months through provision of training for volunteers on the plague, prepositioning of PPE and IEC materials to be used in time of need. Following the launch of the DREF operation and release of the funds, WHO revised the risk of the plague outbreak spreading beyond the borders of Madagascar. This resulted in a change in strategy especially, affecting the activities that could be implemented in Mauritius. Indeed, recommendations were made to stop implementation of community-based activities on the plague.
The major donors and partners of the DREF include the Red Cross Societies and governments of Australia, Austria, Belgium, Britain, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the USA, as well as DG ECHO, the UK Department for International Development (DFID), AECID, the Medtronic and Zurich Foundations and other corporate and private donors. On behalf of the Mauritius Red Cross Society (MRCS), the IFRC would like to extend its gratitude to all partners for their generous contributions.