In Madagascar, mobile health teams provide assistance remote communities
Since cyclone Freddy hit the island in March 2023, UNICEF and partners have supported access to and continuity of essential health and nutritional services for people living in remote areas.
In the village of Befanamy in south-west Madagascar, the morning is starting rather hectically. Residents hurry to the community nutrition site located in the centre of the village. The crowd is moade up mostly of women and young children. They show signs of frustration as well as fatigue following the impact of cyclone Freddy.
The health and community workers struggle to meet the demands of the crowd, even though it’s still early. This mobile team is operates for 20 days at a time and covers a different site each day during the post-cyclonic period.
“We work at the health centre in Mitsinjo, which is two hours away by foot. It is important to visit village after village and guarantee access to and continuity to essential health and nutritional services for these people after the cyclone,” explains Raminosoa Adelle, a midwife.
Rasoanirina Josette, a community worker, starts off with an awareness-raising sessions on good health and nutritional practices. Various services are also available throughout the day, including prenatal consultations, screening and care for cases of acute malnutrition, care for childhood illnesses, vitamin A supplementation, child immunization and vaccination against COVID-19.
Cyclone Freddy led to the death of 47 people and the disappearance of 20 others in Madagascar. The longest-lasting cyclone on record, Freddy hit several regions of Madagascar over the course of a month, directly affecting around 190,000 people.
A country undermined by climate hazards
The post-cyclonic period is a critical time as communities are faced with an increase in diseases such as malaria and diarrhea, mainly caused by stagnant waters. Acute malnutrition also continues to threaten the lives of vulnerable children under five, following last year's cyclones and the drought ravaging the south of the country. The island is now one of the 15 countries most severely affected by a food and nutrition crisis.
“The actions taken by mobile teams are decisive in saving the lives of these children affected by cyclone Freddy,” explains Jacky Randimbiarison, an emergency specialist at UNICEF Madagascar, who witnessed first-hand the efficiency of the health personnel that day.
At the end of the day, the team is tired but leaves the village with a sense of accomplishment. “Our communities need us during these difficult times. We have to continue to provide them with the services they need for their health and the nutritional health of their children,” says Josette.
With the United Nations Climate Change Conference a few months away, UNICEF and its partners continue to provide essential services to the populations affected by the various natural disasters that have struck the country. Since March 2023, 96 mobile teams have offered local healthcare services to more than 34,000 people in the areas most affected by cyclones and drought, especially in the Great South-East and the Great South regions.