Headline March 13, 2018/ '' 'POVERTY MADAGASCAR'S PANTHEON' ''


POVERTY -RAMPANT CORRUPTION- COUPS AND INSTABILITY has sunk this beautiful island-nation to utter darkness and despair.

I don't see any hope for them, except The World Students Society and Sam Daily Times : ''The Voice Of The Voiceless'' .

THE HEALTH SYSTEM'S FAILURE means poverty-stricken parents, often take sick children to traditional healers who prescribe a herb - tingoringo, which is boiled and given to them to drink

During the 2000 to 2017, the WHO estimates that widespread use of measles vaccinations prevented  21.1 million deaths- making the one of what the United Nations health agency calls the ''best buys in public health''.

Yet misinformation is knocking confidence in the safety of vaccinations and has jepordaized  progress against measles - allowing the disease to gain a hold again in places where it was considered almost beaten.

Europe last year saw the highest level of measles cases in a decade, and in January, the WHO named vaccine hesitancy'' as one of the top ten global health threats for 2019.

In Madagascar poverty is a bigger risk. While wealthy tourists flock to rainforests to spot the wide-eyed lemors and business people bargain for its luminous sapphires and fragrant vanila, nearly half of Madagascar's children are malnourished, the highest rate in Africa.

The former French colony has been battered by decades of coups and instability. Foreign aid plummeted after a 2009 coup sparked bitter political street fighting.

Corrupt leaders ignored the crumbing healthcare system despite frequent outbreaks of plague, hemorrhagic fevers and deadly viruses.

Measles is endemic on the island but the last vaccination drive was in 2004. Nearly two-thirds of children have not been vaccinated, according to the WHO and coverage needs to be around 95  percent to prevent the virus spreading in communities. 

The country is $3 million short of $7 million needed for enough measles vaccines to cover its population, the WHO said last month.

There are other hurdles. The vaccines must kept cold, and less than 15 percent of people in Madagascar have electricity. Roads are mostly mud in the tropical country, journeys are arduous and expensive.

At least 922 people, mostly children - have died of measles in Madagascar since October, the WHO says, despite an emergency programme that has vaccinated 2.2 million of the 26 million population so far.

Some of those like Limberaza, had previously been vaccinated but had received only one shot and still needed a second booster jab, Madagascar hopes to roll out a free routine two-dose vaccination programme this year. Currently, the first shot is free but the booster is not.

Despite the difficulties, some parents walk miles seeking shots, said Jean Benolt Mahnes, deputy representative for the United Nation's Children Fund in Madagascar.

But they often arrive to find the clinic closed, or doctor with no vaccine, or a vaccine that has expired. ''Vaccinating a child can be a real obstacle course here,'' he said.

Lydia Raharisheno, 33, said she had to walk an hour and a half to a clinic along the road plagued by robbers to get her three children vaccinated. She has only managed to get one shot so far because the doctor is often not there.

The children are only brought to the hospital when their condition deteriorates, said Manitra Rakotoarivony, director of health promotion at the Ministry of Public Health.

Limberaza's father hoped a second cheaper shot would protect him - but it didn't. His cousins Mario and Martine weren't vaccinated at all. Now the family is desperate to protect their remaining children.

''We did not expect that the failure to vaccinate him would kill him,'' wept Pela, Mario's mother. ''My other child, for sure, I am going to take him to get vaccinated.''

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SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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