MADAGASCAR—With 20 mobile clinics from the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund, healthcare services have been restored in Madagascar after the just concluded destructive cyclone season.

The Batsirai and Emnati cyclones caused more than 300 deaths and destroyed or damaged more than 150 health structures, depriving 800,000 people of access to healthcare.

Among the regions hardest hit by the two cyclones, Vatovavy and neighboring Fitovinany are rebuilding their health systems to better cope with these recurring extreme weather events.

 With funding from the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, the World Health Organization (WHO) has rehabilitated 13 of the 20 health centers that were completely or partially destroyed last year, seven of which are already operational.

However, 20 mobile clinics have also been making daily rounds in hard-to-reach areas.

Thanks to funding from the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund, the deployment of these mobile clinics has enabled approximately one million people to access curative health services in places where there were no longer functional health structures.

Mobile clinics have made it possible to strengthen epidemiological surveillance, the detection, and reporting of cases of vaccine-preventable diseases.

Additionally, to be able to respond adequately, teams of two to three health professionals have been trained to travel with their medical equipment from village to village by car, motorbike, dugout canoe, or on foot, depending on the accessibility of the localities.

On-site, they attend to patients in houses that are made available to them by villagers.

Dr. Yasmine Laetitia Lydie, Secretary General of Madagascar’s Ministry of Health, “The intervention of the mobile clinics has made a considerable contribution as they have enabled the restoration of health services.”

Dr. Lydie also reckoned that the mobile clinics contributed to the restoration of vaccination services as well as basic health services during the cyclone emergency.

Dr. Lydie noted that the clinic had also covered areas that were usually inaccessible to health services, as well as isolated localities and villages.

“The mobile clinics have made it possible to strengthen epidemiological surveillance, the detection, and reporting of cases of vaccine-preventable diseases such as polio and measles, as well as cases of maternal death and gender-based violence,” added Dr. Lydie.

WHO-Madagascar preparatory interventions for the Cyclone season

In preparation for the first cyclone of the year, Cyclone Freddy, 17 doctors and laboratory technicians from the Fitovinany, Vatovavy, and Atsim Atsinanana regions.

Moreover, where cases of water-related diseases had been reported after previous cyclones, medical professionals were trained to better manage emergencies and blood transfusion services.

In addition, people living in at-risk areas were invited to join eight shelter sites that were set up for their safety before the cyclone hit.

Drawing lessons from the 2022 cyclone season, during which stocks of medicines were destroyed, WHO also built a storage warehouse for medical materials in Manakara to serve the three regions of the greater southeast.

WHO has also provided health kits with medicines for malaria and diarrhoeal diseases, among others.

In addition, the Organisation helped deploy epidemiologists in each of the country’s 23 regions and set up a system to collect data on diseases with epidemic potential.

The digitization of the disease reporting system has enabled real-time monitoring of the health situation, helping health authorities to respond more quickly.

Dr. Laurent Musango, WHO Representative in Madagascar said, “Through all of this support, we have made strides towards our objective of strengthening the country’s health system to make it resilient in cases of emergency, such as during cyclones.”

Dr. Musango assured that above all, WHO would remain committed to improving primary healthcare structures that serve the local population.

This year, before Cyclone Freddy hit, teams of health workers were permanently present at each of the eight shelter sites to deal with any possible illness or epidemic.

Despite the torrential rains and extensive flooding caused by the cyclone, no cases of diseases such as cholera were recorded in the country.

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