Madagascar is an island country off the southeastern coast of Africa. It is famous for its unique climate, vibrant ecosystems and a Disney movie bearing its namesake. However, despite its colorful outward appearance Madagascar is not only a country that has been struggling with the burdens of extreme poverty. It is also a country that has strived to respond to the constant risks of infectious diseases in Madagascar that are rampant throughout its population.
5 Facts About Infectious Diseases in Madagascar
- Of the top 10 leading causes of death in Madagascar, four are infectious diseases. Compared to the United States, which only has one infectious disease in its top 10 causes of death, Madagascar’s rate of death due to these largely preventable illnesses is staggering. These four killers are diarrheal diseases, lower respiratory infections, malaria and tuberculosis. Diarrheal diseases and lower respiratory infections, the top two leading causes of death in Madagascar, are not on the lists of countries such as the United States. Easily preventable simply through clean water and relatively basic medical equipment and treatment, these infectious diseases are just one of many lethal circumstances stemming from poverty.
- More than 60% of the population of Madagascar lives far from health centers. Additionally, the methods of travel are dangerous and difficult. Underdeveloped and often undermanaged roads and means of travel are when coupled with the scarcity of adequate care, literally a hard road to health. All four of the leading causes of death by infectious diseases are prevalent in Madagascar are preventable and treatable given adequate recovery time, proper equipment, medication and access to proper nutrition. However, if travel is expensive and exhausting those in need will not have the time or resources to spare to travel to one of these remote health care facilities.
- Diarrheal diseases are the leading cause of death in Madagascar. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2018, diarrheal diseases were responsible for 10,832 deaths or 7.88% of deaths in Madagascar. These diseases are particularly deadly due to the high rates of malnutrition in the population. Diarrheal diseases are especially draining and resource-heavy upon one’s body and for those without healthy and consistent diets coupled with the lack of potable water and adequate hygiene that may have caused the disease in the first place. Although attention for this issue is very minimal, there are efforts to help the people of Madagascar prevent these diseases through the allocation of health hygiene products and the spread of health information. Project WASH Madagascar provides information to children and adults about the importance of cleaning their hands and drinking clean water. It has been distributing WASH kits that contain additional information as well as cleaning products.
- Malaria rates have been steadily climbing since 2009. Deaths due to malaria in Madagascar increased by 7.5%, between 2009 and 2019. The United Nations OCHA reported an increase of malaria cases from 402,385 in 2019 to 663,558 in 2020. This may be partly due to the decrease in incoming aid and available health services during the COVID-19 pandemic. Malaria is an infectious disease that, with the proper resources, is entirely preventable and treatable. However, just as with these other infectious diseases, circumstances from poverty block the road to health and kill thousands.
- After a measles outbreak in 2018 – 2019, infection and death rates are almost completely down. Madagascar has been struggling to address these issues even amidst the hectic state of the world. However, it is important to acknowledge the successes that Madagascar has seen through coordination between The Ministry of Public Health and WHO and partners in combating these infectious diseases. The distribution of vaccines led to vaccine information, education and free emergency care to those in critical condition, helping control the outbreak. Between January and April of 2019, 46,187 people became infected with measles and 800 dead during a widespread measles outbreak. Medical science and collective human effort contained the measles outbreak with only 34 cases since January 2020, according to Outbreak News Today.
As the world collectively becomes intimately aware of the threats of infectious diseases, especially in cases where there is no supporting health infrastructure, the circumstances of people like those in Madagascar become plainly dire. There are measures to take and aid to disperse that would solve many of these problems. While there is a long way to go, Madagascar continues to work in the hopes of preserving its people and ensuring their safety.
– John J. Lee