IFRC to deploy first-ever plague treatment centre

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is deploying a treatment centre to provide urgent care for hundreds of people in Madagascar who have been infected with plague.

A full medical team will be deployed along with the 50-bed treatment centre that has the capacity to isolate and treat patients suffering from plague. The treatment centre will operate using national health staff in addition to the international medical team, and will significantly bolster in-country capacity to respond to the outbreak.

Our past experience in outbreak response has underlined the importance of responding quickly and effectively

In Madagascar, cases of bubonic plague—a disease spread between animals to humans through flea bites– occur nearly every year. The emergence of the more virulent pneumonic form has raised serious concerns because of its rapid spread into urban areas as well as a confirmed case of plague that has been exported to the Seychelles.

“Our past experience in outbreak response has underlined the importance of responding quickly and effectively”, said Dr Fatoumata Nafo-Traoré, IFRC Regional Director for Africa. “This week we released 1 million swiss francs from our Disaster Relief Emergency Fund to scale up the Malagasy Red Cross’ medical treatment capacity to stop further spread of this disease. Drawing on our experience responding to the West Africa Ebola outbreak, we’ve been able to quickly mobilize a clinical treatment centre and nearly one thousand volunteers.”

To date there have been over 550 cases of the plague, of which more than 70 per cent are the pneumonic form and 57 people have died of the disease.

“The treatment centre will operate 24/7 for people infected with plague.” said Andoniaina Ratsimamanga, Secretary General of Malagasy Red Cross. “Alongside this, the Malagasy Red Cross will continue the important work in communities across 22 regions to provide life-saving information, community based surveillance, environmental sanitation and vector control and, if needed, safe burials. This multi-targeted approach is the only way to stop this outbreak.”

The IFRC will be launching an emergency appeal for additional funds to support further expansion of Red Cross efforts in community surveillance and engagement, water and sanitation, vector control and safe burials. The medical team at the Red Cross treatment centre will include an infectious disease specialist and community health experts, as well as senior finance and audit staff.

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