Malaria treatment and vaccination in Madagascar

Climate change: Providing malaria health services in Madagascar

Madagascar is one of the countries most affected by malaria. According to the Ministry of Public Health, the reported number of malaria cases in 2023 exceeded the national epidemic threshold: 2.8 million cases and 400 deaths were recorded, compared to 1.7 million in 2022.

In Ikongo district, where Doctors Without Borders (MSF) is providing health and nutritional care, people are struggling with a dual crisis of malaria and malnutrition worsened by geographical challenges. Children under five are particularly at risk of complications. According to USAID, malaria affects around 7.5% of children under five in the country.

Malaria treatment and vaccination in Madagascar

Treating malaria and malnutrition in Madagascar

In Ikongo, in south-eastern Madagascar, MSF receives a high number of malnourished children under the age of 5. Many suffer from complications as well as malaria and respiratory infections.

Accessing healthcare services during malaria peak season

The malaria peak season coincides with the cyclone and rainy season, from October to May. During this time, it becomes extremely difficult for people to access health centres. This puts the lives of malnourished children at even greater risk. Dr Nantenaina, a medical doctor at the Intensive Therapeutic Feeding Centre (ITFC) run by MSF, explains. "When the rain is heavy, providing care for children becomes difficult. The roads become muddy, flooded, and unusable. It is a struggle for both health workers and patients to move around, making it hard for patients to access health centres or for us to send them back home."

In hard-to-reach areas like Ikongo, the distance between households and healthcare facilities is significant. Soanary, the mother of a 4-year-old boy suffering from malnutrition and malaria, describes her journey:

"After seeing my son's condition deteriorate, I decided to go to the nearest health center. To get here, I had to walk for four hours and cross through water, carrying my son on my back".

Soanary isn't the only one facing this situation. The lack of transport and poor road conditions make it difficult for communities to access health centres, particularly during the rainy and cyclone seasons. As a result, people only seek medical care when their health has deteriorated to a critical condition.

Accessing healthcare services for Malaria and malnutrition in Madagascar
The Ikongo district is often hit by extreme weather conditions and cyclones, further limiting people’s already restricted access to health care.

Climate change at the heart of the malaria crisis

Madagascar is one of the countries most threatened by climate change. The country has been severely affected by extreme weather events, which have challenged access to health facilities and undermined the overall state of health and nutrition. This situation has played a significant role in the rise of malaria and malnutrition.

According to the World Health Organization, the rates of malaria cases and deaths due to this disease increased by 25% to 55% between 2015 and 2022. Additionally, the 2023 World Malaria Report highlights that these rates surged by more than 100% between 2000 and 2022.

Changes in temperature and rainfall, as well as significant heat waves and floods, can impact the behaviour and survival of the Anopheles mosquito, leading to increased disease transmission within communities. In the Ikongo district, which already experiences a humid tropical climate, the effects of climate change are particularly severe. People are cut off from healthcare, exacerbating an already compromised nutritional situation.

MSF treating malaria in Madagascar
Our teams support the local health authorities and play a key role in diagnosing and treating cases of malaria and malnutrition in children under 5.

Our healthcare services in Madagascar

Moreover, many villages in Ikongo are surrounded by marshes and rivers. Heavy rains flood plantations and rice fields, worsening the area's already precarious nutritional conditions.

"During the rainy season, our health centres receive a lot of cases of malaria," explains Evelyne, a nurse at the Ikongo Primary Health Centre. "We have at least one new case of a malnourished child who also suffers from severe malaria every week during the rainy season," says Dr Nantenaina, a doctor at the Intensive Therapeutic Feeding Centre operated by MSF.

MSF has been present in Ikongo since 2022. Between then and March 2024, MSF medical teams working with Malgasy health authorities and health promoters diagnosed and treated 2,205 children suffering from both malnutrition and malaria. This figure includes 256 cases this year. In response to food insecurity exacerbated by various climatic phenomena and cyclones, MSF teams have increased activities in the southern part of the country. MSF currently supports seven primary health centres and two intensive nutritional clinics. These health centres are used to diagnose and treat malnourished children in the Ikongo district.