Plague outbreak delays Malagasy school calendar

Malagasy school children. The beginning of the country's 2017- 2018 academic year has been delayed due to an outbreak of plague. RIVONALA RAZAFISON | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

Madagascar has postponed the beginning of the 2017-2018 academic year for the fourth time due to plague outbreak.

The plague has so far killed over 100 people, of the over 1,100 reported cases of infection.

The 2017-2018 academic programme that was scheduled to begin on November 6, has now been suspended indefinitely.

Early, the academic calendar was set to begin on October 2, having been halted in September.

The latest suspension of the academic activities was announced following consultations between the Malagasy authorities and the UN agencies, including the World Health Organisation (WHO).

“The epidemic continues to spread and new areas are being hit. Sending children to schools is risky in such circumstances, despite the efforts to contain the spread.

"They are safer at home than outside,” stated Mr Todisoa Andriamampandry, the director-general for basic education.

However, people have ridiculed the decision, terming the delayed academic year the “plague holiday”.

The powerful Roman Catholic Church, the biggest investor in private education, has vowed to disregard the order.

The Antananarivo’s Arch-bishop Odon Razanakolona said the church would take measures to ward of the plague.

The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) secretary-general, Mr Elhadj As Sy, at the end of an emergency visit to Antananarivo on Friday, appealed for international response to the plague outbreak.

“In Madagascar, cases of bubonic plague – a disease spread between animals and humans through flea bites – occurs nearly every year,” observed IFRC.

The Geneva-headquartered WHO said the risk of global spread of the outbreak was minimal.

WHO was seeking $5.5 million to support the plague response.

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