from MARIO RAJOMAZANDRY in Antananarivo, Madagascar
ANTANANARIVO, (CAJ News) – MORE than 1 200 children have died from an outbreak of measles afflicting Madagascar since the beginning of the year.
Children’s rights groups disclosed the figures in an appeal for the international community to intervene and address multiple crises in the Indian Ocean island country.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) expressed concern the measles outbreak could further destabilise the country’s collapsing health system.
Besides measles which began in January, annual pandemics such as plagues have weakened the capacity of the system.
“Fewer than a third of children are fully immunized,” said UNICEF Madagascar deputy representative, Jean Benoit Manhes.
Some 42 percent of children below five years old are stunted or chronically malnourished.
Children are the hardest hit by crises affecting Madagascar.
Two weeks ago, torrential rains affected 120 000 people, cutting off roads, destroying 174 schools and forcibly displacing 16 000 people.
Before the floods destroyed schools, 2 500 classrooms were needed to keep up with population growth.
“The country faces a dramatic learning crisis. Recent surveys show that just 7 percent of children aged 7-to-14 have basic numeracy skills,” Manhes said.
According to UNICEF, two out of five girls get married before 18.
Child labour is prevalent with more than a third of children reportedly working in dangerous conditions such as mining.
Madagascar has 25 million people, half of whom are children.
“Don’t forget Madagascar’s children. They need more media coverage and international attention. They need help and will need help for a long time,” Manhes appealed.
– CAJ News