- People in dire need in Madagascar may lose access to essential medical aid as MSF staff have been denied entry visas.
- A historic drought, sandstorms and COVID-19 have plunged Madagascar into a catastrophic humanitarian situation.
- We call on the Malagasy authorities to urgently grant entry visas to our staff in order to provide emergency nutritional care in the country.
Paris - Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) will be forced to stop medical activities in Madagascar as our international staff are being denied entry visas due to COVID-19. Since March, we have provided critical medical care to 6,000 children with malnutrition across 20 localities in Amboasary and Ambovombe districts. We call on the Malagasy authorities to urgently grant entry visas to avoid the closure of our medical activities, which employ 150 Malagasy staff.
“Travel restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic should not prevent relief organisations like MSF from responding to other equally high priority crises,” says Bérengère Guais, MSF emergency manager.
“As a medical organisation, we understand the importance of prevention and control measures for COVID-19,” says Guais. “We have put in place strict safety protocols for our staff and patients. This includes the systematic vaccination of all international staff working in Madagascar.”
A historic drought and sandstorms have affected agriculture and the collateral effects of COVID-19 on the socio-economic structure have added to the chronic food fragility and underdevelopment in the South. These factors have plunged the region into a catastrophic humanitarian situation since late 2020. In response, government agencies and humanitarian organisations, including MSF, have increased assistance to address acute malnutrition and enlarged emergency food aid for the 1.3 million people affected.
Even though Madagascar had closed its borders since March 2020 to control the spread of COVID-19 in the country, we received special authorisation to bring in aid workers and resources to continue our medical humanitarian work, which has also been the case in many other countries facing acute crises around the world.
Our international staff were granted ‘non-renewable, three-month visas’. However, with the threat of the Delta variant, since July, the government is no longer granting special access for aid workers, so without human resources we will not be able to maintain our activities.
Travel restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic should not prevent relief organisations like MSF from responding to other equally high-priority crises.Bérengère Guais, MSF emergency manager
We have not received answers from the highest levels of the Malagasy administration to our 12 requests for entry visa for new doctors, nurses, and other personnel. “Ten of our international staff will be leaving the country in two days as their visas will expire. The other 12 staff will have to leave in three weeks,” says Guais.
Since the end of March, our mobile clinics have been criss-crossing the districts of Amboasary and Ambovombe, among the hardest hit areas in Madagascar, to treat malnourished children and distribute food rations in some 20 localities. The teams have been visiting particularly remote and impoverished villages, and responding to alerts sent by local health authorities.
Three hundred tons of food have already been distributed, and another 750 tons are expected to be distributed by October. In addition to the ongoing water distribution to 30,000 people, new wells and boreholes are planned. About 100 patients were hospitalised in June and July in a dedicated facility built and managed by our teams within the Ambovombe Hospital. This intensive treatment centre for malnutrition has already closed.
If we are not granted new entry visas all our projects will have to close and we will be forced to terminate the contracts of more than 150 Malagasy staff currently working to implement our emergency operations.