Madagascar: Plague-Prevention Campaign Launched in Places of Detention

press release

Photo: Glenna Gordon/AI
File photo: The country's economy plummeted in the aftermath of the 2009 coup and its prison system is rapidly deteriorating.

Antananarivo — A campaign against the plague - the first of its kind - was launched on 2 February in two Malagasy detention centres with support from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

In all, more than 3,600 people held in the Maison Centrale in Antanimora and in the Maison de Force in Tsiafahy will benefit.

The campaign was launched in cooperation with the prison authorities to counter the risk of the disease spreading by means of rats, of which there are many in prison environments. Detainees in the two facilities live in severely overcrowded conditions with limited opportunity for maintaining hygiene.

"It's not only the detainees but also the people living nearby who will benefit from the anti-plague campaign," said Olivier Jénard, the head of the ICRC delegation in Madagascar.

This pilot project, carried out in partnership with the justice ministry, the health ministry (rat control unit and emergency response and disease control unit) and the Pasteur Institute of Madagascar, which is providing technical support, aims to reduce the density of the rat population. The prevention techniques employed against the plague will be transferred to justice ministry agents for use in other detention facilities in Madagascar.

According to the health ministry, Madagascar is still one of the places where the plague is most prevalent. In recent years, between 300 and 600 cases, including some 30 cases of pneumonic plague, have been reported annually in the country.

The plague occurs in areas up to 800 metres above sea level: in Madagascar's central high plateaus (highlands), Antananarivo and the north of the country. In urban areas where the disease has taken hold (in the highlands and Antananarivo), the plague occurs every year from October to March, when the weather is hot and humid.

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