Archaeologists helped quell a COVID surge in Madagascar

Archaeologists helped quell a COVID surge in Madagascar

The coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 arrived in the fishing community of Andavadoaka, Madagascar, in April this year. The first wave did not get far from metropolitan areas, so Andavadoaka was not affected by it. But the second wave reached every corner of the island country. A combination of people not staying home, the Beta variant of the virus circulating country-wide and the lack of the vaccination made the situation deteriorate quickly. The vaccine doses are only available for1% of its population, and some doses have been wasted because of hesitancy of the government.

So, when COVID reached Andavadoaka, they knew they could not count on the government to stop spreading the virus. Through sheer grit and community organizing, a team of MAP archaeologists pivoted from running field surveys to gathering and distributing aid in their town. When word got out, communities all around the region cried out for help. With that in mind George ‘Bic’ Manahira, who is based in Andavadoaka as the field manager for the Pennsylvania State University’s Morombe Archaeological Project (MAP), reached out to the university seeking funding aid. At first, the project aims to reconstruct the impact of human settlement in the Velondriake area, a marine protected biodiversity hotspot on the southwest coast of Madagascar. But with the funding aid the idea is to buy personal protective equipment (PPE) for the community. The university transferred $1,500 to buy the equipment - bleach, sprayers, cleaning products and more importantly, 1,000 cloth masks produced by a sewing group.

The researchers from MAP also shared guidelines about preventing viral transmission, and sprayed disinfectant in community hubs, including the grocery shop, church and schools. The situation improved: people have stopped arriving at Vezo Hospital with coronavirus symptoms and the distribution effort was so successful that neighbouring communities reached out, asking for similar aid, says Manahira.



Scudellari, M. (2021). These archaeologists helped quell a COVID surge in Madagascar. Nature.