7 March 2014

Madagascar - Plague-Free Prisons

press release

It might be supposed that the plague has been eradicated from the planet, but it is still rife in countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo or Madagascar. This 10-minute film shows the efforts being made by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and its local partners to prevent an outbreak of plague in Malagasy prisons where overcrowding and insanitary conditions would help this highly contagious disease to spread like wildfire.

"A nuclear blast of the plague"

The plague is normally described as a disease of the poor. Its main carrier is the black rat which passes it on to humans via infected fleas. Every year the return of heat and rain in October marks the start of the plague season. Fleas multiply and the risk of transmission grows. The time has come to exterminate insects and rats.

In 2012, in order to back the Malagasy authorities' policy to combat the plague, the ICRC, the prison service, the Public Health Ministry, the Swiss Embassy and the Pasteur Institute of Madagascar (IPM), launched a campaign to rid Antanimora prison of rats. The prison is located in Antananarivo and holds some 3,000 detainees.

In the words of Professor Rogier from the IPM, "if the plague got into prisons, it would be like a nuclear blast in the middle of the town, because the walls of the prison would never be able to stop the disease from escaping and invading the rest of the town."

Since the beginning of the project, eight prisons throughout the country have benefited from this preventive campaign. In 2014 the Malagasy prison service is continuing to receive technical support from the ICRC and its partners. Detainees and the prison authorities join in operations to rid the premises of rats and insects. The goal of the ICRC regional delegation in Madagascar is to help to ensure that these efforts continue every year and that the prison authorities can pursue the battle on their own.

Between 2009 and 2013, 500 cases of plague were recorded on average every year in Madagascar. In 2012, according to data from the World Health Organization, 60 of the 256 persons who caught the disease died.

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