Madagascar, like much of the world, has dealt with disinformation, confusion, disrupted supply chains and health crises from the pandemic. Additionally, like much of the developing world, Madagascar remains largely unvaccinated. In fact, the country has administered only enough doses to vaccinate between 4-5% of the population. However, international organizations are working to provide COVID-19 vaccines to Madagascar.
An Inside Voice
In an interview with The Borgen Project, Pierre Ranjakamanana, a 21-year-old student from Antananarivo, stated that the pandemic “badly affected the country in many ways, especially people from poor backgrounds.” The government-imposed lockdowns and curfew impacted Antananarivo’s many independent vendors, who often rely on daily income to make ends meet. Ranjakamanana recalled that “people were desperate due to the fact that they had to stay at home for two weeks.”
“All of us were panicking because we heard on the news that COVID-19 had killed many people in China. Then, we started thinking of ways not to get the virus, so we drank hot water tea with ginger and lemon in it, washed our hands every single time, and decided not to go outside.” He also remembered that while some took the virus very seriously, others “did not really believe in the virus because they believed that COVID-19 is like a normal disease like headache, fever and all that, so there is no point in panicking.”
Debunking the “Tea”
One of the biggest challenges during the pandemic was overcoming misinformation and acquiring COVID-19 vaccines for Madagascar. Madagascar’s President Rajoelina has promoted an herbal tea that the Malagasy Institute of Applied Research developed as a COVID-19 cure. Called “Covid-Organics,” it is based on the artemisia plant, an important source of anti-malarial drugs. However, there is no evidence that tea has any effect on COVID-19. Still, the country has shipped thousands of doses to different countries, tried to develop an injectable version, and distributed the tea to schools, threatening students with expulsion if they did not drink it.
Efforts to Vaccinate Madagascar
Thankfully, international organizations are distributing vaccines and medical equipment to Madagascar. COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) and the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT) are organizations that acquire, organize and distribute COVID-19 vaccines to the developing world and Africa, respectively. The U.S. State Department has given 1.7 million doses to these organizations, 74% of Madagascar’s total so far.
In 2021, the World Bank gave $100 million to Madagascar to help the country acquire and distribute more vaccines. If implemented smoothly, the initiative should vaccinate about 5.6 million people, as well as support the infrastructure that will continue to vaccinate the population. Some COVID-19 vaccines must be kept on ice, which vastly increases the logistics of distribution.
UNICEF is also working to provide COVID-19 vaccines to Madagascar, supporting the government’s goal of vaccinating 9 million people before the end of 2022. UNICEF’s main work is buying vaccines and supporting and setting up clinics and distribution centers.
Though very little of the Malagasy population has received vaccines, it is encouraging to see the country overcoming previous hurdles in fighting the disease and finally gaining access to precious vaccines.
– Shiloh Harrill