SUBMITTED TO: WHO
As of 2018, Ebola had already killed over 11,000 people, and in the most recent outbreak (over summer 2019 in Democratic Republic of Congo), an additional 1,500 deaths were recorded. There have been more than 20 major outbreaks of the Ebola virus in Africa, dating back to 1976. Outbreaks are largely centralized in Western Africa, so no cases of Ebola have been recorded in Madagascar, and the countries most affected by these outbreaks do not have strong political ties to Madagascar. However, Madagascar does have experience with disease prevention and control, as we had a major outbreak of pneumonic and bubonic plague in 2017. Although we are not at the forefront of the Ebola crisis and our closest ties are not affected, we certainly do not wish to see members of our continent struggling with this disease and are willing to assist in any way we can.
In 2017, as mentioned above, Madagascar was hit with an outbreak of Plague. We were assisted heavily by the WHO in this, which we believe made a big difference throughout the crisis. We have since contained and managed the issue, and have mostly moved on. We largely used approaches such as isolation and investigation, but we realize in some areas affected by Ebola these may not work very well. These measures are still necessary, but can be scaled back slightly so as not to be so disruptive to local lives. Madagascar used epidemiological surveillance to monitor the issue, which can be done in a non-intrusive way. Some of Madagascar’s most important steps to limit Plague, however, were its public awareness efforts. With these, people will be made more aware of the dangers of Ebola, as well as ways to get help regarding it. The Ministry of Public Health in Madagascar established crisis units in some of the large cities, and treatment and antibiotics were offered for no cost.
We believe non-intrusive but effective measures are key here. There are many ways to assist the citizens of the affected countries without losing trust from them. Involving local leaders and simply making people aware of the problem and what they can do about it will help a lot. The Minister of Health in Guinea cited “the permanent field presence of more than 70 WHO staff and the rapid deployment by WHO of two mobile laboratories” (WHO official website, 2015) as one of the main reasons for the very successful containment campaign in the nation. These measures should be expanded, seeing as they worked well already. Additionally, however, the efforts to incorporate the WHO’s aid better into the local communities are very new, but seem to be working in the DRC so far. According to their official website, the WHO’s fourth Strategic Response Plan (SRP-4) lays out plans to “[strengthen] community engagement; [strengthen]…effective coordination of the activities of local and international partners; [creating] an enabling environment for the response”. We believe that this community connection is a step in the right direction and needs to be scaled up even further in future efforts.
Madagascar has sincere hope that the committee and the communities affected can and will find a promising and effective solution to this very pressing issue. We hope to be able to make strides in assisting these countries in committee, and specifically hope that community awareness, outreach, and assistance are among the solutions provided.
- Gavin Warner