Antananarivo/ Geneva, 19 October 2017—The Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Elhadj As Sy has appealed for international support for Madagascar’s plague response, at the end of an emergency visit to the Indian Ocean island nation.
“We remain very concerned about this outbreak,” said Mr Sy. “It is in many ways a multi-dimensional crisis that involves illness, fear, stigma and discrimination. The response also needs to be multi-dimensional – addressing all these factors in parallel, with active involvement of communities.
“Chief among these priorities is the need to scale up treatment while also supporting the National Society to raise awareness within the communities – this is critical to containing and quickly ending this outbreak,” said Mr Sy.
IFRC has launched an international emergency appeal for 5.5 million Swiss francs to expand the already growing Red Cross response. This comes on the back of an announcement last week of a 1 million Swiss franc allocation from the IFRC Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF). This allocation has already enabled the deployment of nearly 20 medical and technical staff to support volunteers on the ground, alongside medical equipment and medicines to treat plague.
The Malagasy Red Cross is working with partners to transport the sick to hospitals safely, and it is also going house to house in communities providing information on the plague and how to prevent it. The Red Cross will also assume responsibility for the safe and dignified burials of plague victims, to prevent further spread of plague infection between the dead and the living.
“We have ensured that safe and dignified burials are culturally appropriate and involve the participation of family members, so that Malagasy funeral rites are respected and our communities feel supported and accompanied in this very difficult time,” said Claude Rakotondranja, President of Malagasy Red Cross.
In Madagascar, cases of bubonic plague—a disease spread between animals to humans through flea bites– occur nearly every year. The emergence of the more virulent pneumonic form has raised serious concerns because of its rapid spread into urban areas.
“We are adopting a “no regrets” approach to this response,” said Mr Sy. “Our experience in responding to disease outbreaks is that quick, decisive action can save lives. So we are already on the ground accompanying the Malagasy Red Cross Society to scale up its response. We now look to our partners around the world to support us and the people of Madagascar.”