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Archeologists help quell COVID-19 in Madagascar

Tuesday, July 20, 2021 - 3:09pm
By:
Alan Flurry

In times of the pandemic it's all hands on deck, including associate professor of anthropology Bram Tucker and other members of Pennsylvania State University’s Morombe Archaeological Project (MAP), which aims to reconstruct the impact of human settlement in the Velondriake area, a marine protected biodiversity hotspot on the southwest coast of Madagascar. The coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 arrived in the fishing community of Andavadoaka, Madagascar, in April 2021

The first wave of the pandemic hit Madagascar in June last year, but didn’t reach Andavadoaka, sticking mostly to metropolitan areas, where it killed about 230 people. The second wave, however, has reached all corners of the island. It is fuelled by SARS-CoV-2’s Beta variant, citizens’ difficulty in staying at home, and a president, Andry Rajoelina, who does not promote vaccination. So far, Madagascar has received enough COVID-19 vaccine doses for only 1% of its population to receive a single dose, and some doses have been wasted because of hesitancy.

So when SARS-CoV-2 came to Andavadoaka, Manahira knew he couldn’t expect the government to help. Through sheer grit and community organizing, he and a team of MAP archaeologists pivoted from running field surveys to gathering and distributing aid in their town. And when word got out, communities all around the region cried out for help.

READ MORE about scholars with a heart for others, with a willingness and knowhow to get big things done.

Image: map graphic via Nature.com

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