The World Health Organisation (WHO) has called on Madagascar to revamp laws governing plague victims.
Officials say the outdated protocol encourages a culture of secrecy and that actually helps the disease spread.
More than 140 people have died in the latest outbreak on the island, the worst in at least 50 years.
CGTN’s Vauldi Carelse is in the country. She filed this special report.
This is where they bury the very poor in Madagascar, the people who had no-one.
It’s also where they bury the plague victims. For their families, it makes the loss so much worse.
On this island, there are sacred rites for the dead. The body is washed, wrapped in a shroud and placed in a family tomb. Those rites are denied to plague victims.
Mary, not her real name is still struggling to accept what happened to her daughter.
The little girl died at the start of the outbreak. Mary couldn’t believe it was the plague – or that there’d be no traditional farewell.
“We shared the same home with her; we took care of her for four days. I kissed her and held her. Why didn’t I catch the disease? So we don’t know what to say, we were really sad about what happened to our daughter, she was just wrapped in a plastic, just buried with a plastic without the cloths, they didn’t even use the shroud.” Mary said.
Others simply refuse to hand over the body of a plague victim, exposing themselves and others to the disease. The bacterium lives on – well after the victim has died.
“Municipal officials came to take the body but my family refused and then the whole neighbourhood came to help. The officials then gave up and they left, telling us not to touch the body of my brother-in-law. The neighbourhood said if they returned to take the body they will have trouble with us.” Relative to the girl, Kristy said.
This clash between science and tradition makes containing an outbreak far more difficult.
Plague breaks out here every year- yet the stigma is always present and the protocols for the dead outdated.
“The law governing the burials of people who died from plague is a law made in 1938 can you imagine. Now WHO has proposed to the government and communities how we can give back to the communities free from the bacteria. It is possible. It was done for Ebola. It would put plague as treatable disease, but now we have a big stigma around plague. ”the World Health Organization, Dr Charlotte Ndiaye said.
Madagascar is slowly containing this outbreak -The infection rate is slowing, there are fewer burials in the paupers’ graveyard.
But officials say they need to win the trust of the community – if they’re to one day finally banish the plague.
Source: CGTN Africa