Photo Credit: Wikimedia / Rocky Mountain Laboratories / (US) National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases / (US) National Institutes of Health
The Mothers’ Union in the Anglican Province of the Indian Ocean is calling for a day of prayer and fasting on Friday in response to an epidemic of plague which is sweeping the island of Madagascar. The provincial Mother’s Union president, Marie-Pierrette Bezara, has called on women to pray that “the God of mercy [will] save the Malagasy people from this horrible disease”.
More than 33 people have died since the death of a bus passenger at the end of August indicated that the disease had returned to the island. The government have taken steps to prevent the spread of the disease, including closing schools and universities, cancelling public gatherings, including sporting events, and halting prison visits. The World Health Organisation has delivered more than one million doses of antibiotics to fight the outbreak.
The people of Madagascar encounter around 400 cases of plague every year; this is usually bubonic plague, which is spread by rodents and infected fleas. But the majority of cases this year – more than 260 in two months – are the more deadly pneumonic plague, which is spread through coughing. Plague can be treated if spotted early enough; but pneumonic plague can be fatal within 24 hours of infection.
“Plague is curable if detected in time,” The WHO representative in Madagascar, Dr Charlotte Ndiaye, said. “Our teams are working to ensure that everyone at risk has access to protection and treatment. The faster we move, the more lives we save.”
The WHO is working with the country’s health ministry to train local health workers on how to identify and care for patients, and how to trace people who have had close contact with symptomatic patients so that they may be given protective treatment.
“Both bubonic and pneumonic plague can be cured using common antibiotics if delivered early,” the agency said in a statement. “Antibiotics can also help prevent infection among people who have been exposed to plague.”
Quoting Mark 16: 17-18, which reads: “And these signs will accompany those who believe. . . they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them,” the provincial Mothers’ Union president Marie-Pierrette Bezara said: “We are united by our risen Lord. So dear sisters, join us with prayer on that day.”
Jocelyne Razafiarivony, from the Mothers’ Union in Madagascar, commented: “We pray day and night that God would preserve Malagasy people from disease. We pray for God’s forgiveness for all our sins and pray that the government may be able to cope. Be assured we will unite in prayer and fasting this Friday.”
The call to prayer has been supported by the Anglican mission agency USPG – United Society Partners in the Gospel. USPG’s director for mission and engagement, Canon Richard Bartlett, has written a prayer that people can use:
Thank you that your loving care is over all your Creation.
We ask your blessing on the peoples of Madagascar,
overrun by plague and sickness.
Strengthen those work to eradicate the plague,
give compassion to those who care for the sick,
and healing to all who are affected.
May your own image shine through all Creation,
that all people may know fullness of life through you.