Health Care in MadagascarPeople in Madagascar face many health issues, such as infectious illnesses, malnutrition and inadequate access to health care services. Moreover, according to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), more than “60 percent of Madagascar’s people live more than 5 kilometers from a health center, often in very remote and difficult-to-reach areas without roads or communications.” Nevertheless, a number of projects are in progress to solve these problems and enhance the nation’s health care system.

USAID Provides Aid to Those in Need in Madagascar

Notably, USAID programs help to provide basic health care services and products for mothers and children. Their goal is to improve the quality of health services to isolated rural populations. According to USAID, more than “12,000 volunteers are being trained, supplied and monitored to provide life-saving, primary health care services in nutrition, breastfeeding, pneumonia case management, diarrhea, pregnancy screening and early detection of obstetric and neonatal complications to those living in underserved communes across target regions.”

Another project aimed at enhancing health care in Madagascar was the USAID Mikolo Project. The initiative, which started in 2013 and lasted for five years, intended to boost the nation’s health care system by enhancing the standard of medical treatment, expanding access to necessary medications and medical supplies and enhancing health funding. The project was a huge success: more than 130,250 children under 5 suffering from diarrhea were treated with oral rehydration therapy by community health volunteers (CHVs). Moreover, more than 302,158 children under 5 with pneumonia were taken for appropriate care, and more than 118,664 women were referred by CHVs for antenatal care. The facility of deliveries increased from 50,192 in 2015 to 115,148 in 2017. In total, this project “directly served an estimated 4.6 million people living more than five kilometers from a health facility and achieved significant gains in maternal and child health.”

The Global Fund Fights AIDS in Madagascar

The Global Fund is an organization fighting against eradicating tuberculosis, AIDS and malaria. This organization has been providing financing to Madagascar and has disbursed almost $72 million since 2005 to help end the spread of HIV. The Fund also supports treating tuberculosis, along with distributing mosquito nets to combat malaria and giving antiretroviral medication to HIV/AIDS patients. The Global Fund has further supported improving supply chain management and staff training in health care systems. While there is work to do to fight the spread of AIDS, the Global Fund continues to offer options and raise awareness for those who live with the disease.


To improve health care in Madagascar and to guarantee that all residents have access to the health care services they require, funding for these and other efforts is essential. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to the complicated problems of health care in Madagascar. However, these programs give the people of Madagascar hope for a better future. The nation’s health care system can improve overall health outcomes for its residents by strengthening and becoming more robust with ongoing investment and support.

– Lorraine Lin
Photo: Pixabay

Gender Inequality in MadagascarGender inequality in Madagascar remains a key issue for women. The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) defines gender equality as the equal opportunities, conditions, treatment and acceptance of human rights and dignity for all individuals, including men, women and children. It entails ensuring that everyone has an equal chance to contribute to and benefit from economic, social, cultural and political development, irrespective of their gender. Unfortunately, this is yet to be the reality in Madagascar, as women in the country still experience gender-based bias and exclusion.

A Cultural Problem

Madagascan cultural traditions and societal norms going back centuries, have forced Malagasy women into a secondary position within the public sphere. Typically, this includes the widespread belief that men should dominate leadership roles and speak out more in public. For example, in the realm of Madagascan politics, only 4% are women, leaving them underrepresented and excluded from social, political and economic circles.

Reports link common practices such as child marriage to restricted education and increased poverty. Around two-thirds of girls from poorer Madagascan regions go into marriage before the age of 18. In contrast, girls with access to secondary-level education in the country are less likely to marry earlier in life. Despite these circumstances making it hard for Malagasy women to achieve equality, the pursuance of livelihood activities from the mangrove forest has enabled those who are uneducated to improve their economic status. But this practice remains highly damaging to the environment and therefore does not present a long-term solution to the effects of gender inequality in Madagascar. Achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 5 in pursuance of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls requires the country to close existing gender gaps.

Some Facts of Gender Inequality in Madagascar

The statistics on gender inequality in Madagascar demonstrate significant economic differences between men and women. Some of the facts are as follows:

  • Men in Madagascar earn, on average, 37% more than women, and this is mostly a result of a lack of wage transparency.
  • Women are 20% more likely to experience unemployment than men.
  • Women and girls, 5 years and older in Madagascar, spend 14.6% of their lives working in the unpaid care sector or on domestic work. In comparison, only 2.8% is the number for men.
  • Women working in the export processing zones of the textile and garment sector are especially vulnerable to workplace inequalities.

Reducing Gender Inequality in Madagascar

Although the statistics paint a bleak picture, there are organizations going to great lengths to alleviate the consequences of gender inequality in Madagascar. These organizations aim to enable women to know their rights and seek representation in unions. This is particularly essential as discriminatory stereotypes still exist within the Madagascan union movement.

Representatives from IndustriALL’s Malagasy affiliates; SEKRIMA, FISEMA, USAM and SVS, have noted the importance of providing mentoring and training to women, so they build confidence and feel able to participate in unions. In 2018, USAM introduced a national quota of 40% for women’s representation. As of 2022, The World Bank announced that 48% of its workforce in Madagascar was female, with representation at all levels. This suggests that since USAM’s introduction of a national quota, women’s representation in Madagascar has improved in some areas.

Another important initiative in Madagascar, Feed the Minds, has worked alongside the local organization, Tanjona Association, to improve the livelihoods of Malagasy women through sustainable silk production. The initiative aims to empower 90 members of a women’s association group in Mandrosoa by training them to make silk using environmentally friendly methods. This will give participants the opportunity to acquire functional literacy and numeracy skills, as well as financial concepts, required to form micro-businesses. According to estimates, [in addition to participants], “490 individuals will indirectly benefit from the project”, demonstrating the importance of implementing these kinds of programs. Feed the Minds and other organizations provide new opportunities that not only benefit present-day Malagasy women but also have the potential to empower future generations of girls and women who may not have been aware of their potential.

The Future for Women in Madagascar

In a 2020 report on her trip to Madagascar, Diarietou Gaye, World Bank Group Vice President and Corporate Secretary, argued that Madagascar must create a middle class to promote economic and political stability, which can then lead to job creation. for youths in Madagascar. This, she says, would require women to gain more responsibility and provide an opportunity for them to exercise their abilities in the same way as their male counterparts. Gaye concluded that if men and women in Madagascar had the same opportunities, with equal empowerment efforts for all, then there would be substantial rewards for not just individuals, but throughout entire communities.

–   Bethan Marsden
Photo: Flickr

Cyclone FreddySoutheast African countries were hit hard in February and March 2023 by what may be the longest-lasting tropical cyclone ever recorded. Tropical Cyclone Freddy wreaked havoc in Mozambique, Madagascar and Malawi, where flooding, high winds and mudslides damaged homes, hospitals, schools and farms. Malawi was the most impacted with more than half a million individuals being displaced. As of March 23, 2023, the death toll in the country stood at 511 with 533 Malawians missing according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

In addition to huge losses of life and widespread infrastructure damage, officials and humanitarian organizations have raised alarm over increased rates of cholera and other waterborne diseases in the wake of the storm. The U.N., Doctors Without Borders and other organizations have mobilized in response to the crisis, offering funds and support for government-led responses to the devastation.

Malawian Artists Making a Difference

One African effort to support the cause, organized by the Musicians Union of Malawi (MUM) and Mibawa Television, was a Cyclone Freddy relief concert in Blantyre, Malawi. The concert featured Malawian Afropop artists Tuno, Sam Smack and Tarill, among others; and hip-hop artists Gibo Pearson, Waxy Kay and Phyzix (who chairs MUM’s Southern Chapter). Much of the concert featured gospel groups, including The Ndirande Anglican Voices, Princess Chitsulo and King James Phiri. As of March 22, the total amount of funds raised and items donated have not yet been reported, though Phyzix has indicated that survivors in several locations will be supported by the proceeds.

In an interview with BBC News, R&B Afropop artist Bucci Worldwide promoted the cyclone relief concert and shared his experience on the ground in Blantyre. The artist traveled throughout his hometown region and distributed donations at centers where thousands of displaced people are waiting to be rehoused. In his interview, Bucci spoke about the urgent need for funds and supplies to support the country as it first completes rescue and emergency response missions and then rebuilds. In addition to the immediate housing and health crises created by the storm, damage to crops and livestock, schools and homes will each have long-term impacts on the well-being of residents.

A Record-Breaking Storm

The World Meteorological Organization has yet to determine whether Cyclone Freddy is in fact the longest-lasting tropical cyclone on record. Regardless of the organization’s findings, the storm’s path and impact were unique: first formed in the Timor Sea between Australia and Indonesia, the cyclone crossed the entire South Indian Ocean before making landfall in Madagascar in late February. After heading back towards Madagascar, it looped back to the mainland again and hit Mozambique, then Malawi, in early March. Cyclone Freddy covered a total of more than 8,000 kilometers during its 34-day lifespan.

One record unquestionably broken by the storm, NASA reports, is its accumulated cyclone energy (ACE). With the highest ACE in history, the cyclone’s wind strength amounted to more energy than the entire average U.S. hurricane season.

Hope for the Future

The people of Malawi, Mozambique and Madagascar are no strangers to strong cyclones. During his interview with BBC Bucci noted: “It’s been a historic time for us…We’ve had cyclones before but this one was a very specific, major one. We’ve lost a lot of people.” His call for support from within and beyond his country joins that of many organizations which helped prepare for and respond to the catastrophic storm.

These groups, for example, have helped reign in the cholera outbreak. According to OCHA, cholera infections in Malawi stood at 1,424 in the week ending March 20, down from 1,956 the previous week. Before Cyclone Freddy made landfall, UNICEF implemented its impactful “Early Warnings for All” campaign in the region. The World Health Organization offered funds amounting to $7.9 million (in addition to personnel and health worker training), while $5.5 million was released from the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CEF). The Pan-African Parliament, in response to a plea from a Malawian representative, affirmed solidarity with the country.

Beyond the need for funds and supplies, efforts like the Cyclone Freddy relief concert offer those in Blantyre an opportunity to stand, sing and dance together as they battle the latest in climate catastrophe. During his performance in Blantyre this March, Bucci sang his new song, “One Malawi,” which he wrote in the immediate aftermath of the storm. With an uplifting Afropop beat and a catchy refrain, Bucci hopes “One Malawi” can help remind Malawians of their collective and enduring strength. Surely, the Cyclone Freddy relief concert has offered that and more for Malawians of all walks of life and will continue to give the people of Malawi strength as the proceeds are put to use.

– Hannah Carrigan
Photo: Flickr

Madagascar’s Social Protection Programs
Although very little attention comes the way of Madagascar, recent U.N. aid has placed a much-needed spotlight on its problems. The small island nation off the east coast of Africa has one of the highest poverty rates in the world, with more than 75% of the population living on under $1.90 a day. Looking to address this issue within Madagascar’s institutions, the U.N. worked with local officials to create the ‘Fagnavotse’ social protection program. Fagnavotse provides a mix of health insurance, cash transfers and training services to the poorest Malagasies, reaching more than nine thousand households during its three-year existence. Here is some information about Madagascar’s social protection programs.


A critical part of Fagnavotse is its emphasis on training and protection. Madagascar suffers from extremely low rates of human capital, meaning that despite its abundant natural resources, poor health, education and food access limit long-term growth. Meanwhile, pandemic shocks and the war in Ukraine have raised fuel prices and hampered growth. Madagascar’s social protection program educates farmers on proper practices, providing them with tools and equipping them for the country’s long drought periods. In addition, it offers women affected by gender-based violence and abuse counseling and community support. Over time, the U.N. hopes the program will boost the productivity of Madagascar’s poorest citizens.

Although Fagnavotse was a necessary step in the right direction, access to social protection programs continues to hamper economic growth. Originally conceived for Madagascar’s three most poverty-stricken communes, social protection programs like Fagnavotse only affect 6% of the population and take up around 1% of the budget, suggesting there is room for improvement. A World Bank Study in 2018 found that $50 cash transfers like those in Ethiopia could reduce the poverty rate by as much as 40%. Rather than a sign of defeat, the U.N. chose to treat this as an opportunity to expand its program.

Recent Developments

On February 6, 2023, the World Bank earmarked $250 million in loans for social protection programs in Madagascar. Over the next four years, the aid will target the 3 million poorest Malagasies, more than 13% of the population. The World Bank intends to merge many of the existing social protection programs into a more cohesive system, affecting more people more efficiently. As Marie-Chantal Unwanyiligara, the program’s country manager, stated, “We are very pleased to support a scale-up of Madagascar’s social protection programs … supported by a national social registry that other sectors will use to target the most vulnerable.”

Madagascar’s new social protection program, like Fagnavotse, focuses on immediate aid and long-term growth to reduce the country’s poverty count. The two key aspects of the new program are increased cash transfers to female heads of households and improved access to economic safety nets. This will provide immediate security to the many millions of Malagasies living in extreme poverty while working towards the U.N.’s goal of female empowerment. The World Bank hopes that these cash transfers will disperse themselves throughout the economy, multiplying their positive effect.

In addition, Madagascar’s new social protection program aims to spur growth and tackle the root of the country’s problems. Julia Ravelosa, an economist working with the World Bank, noted that one of the program’s primary objectives is to “encourage girls’ school attendance, promote access to reproductive and health care services, and encourage women’s participation in a package of accompanying measures including financial and economic inclusion.” Madagascar can significantly bolster the country’s overall productivity by improving women’s education and entry into the workforce.

The Road Ahead

Madagascar’s social protection programs still face the challenge of their implementation. For a struggling nation like Madagascar, these reforms are pivotal in reducing extreme poverty and present the quickest opportunity for growth. In the past, low funds and reach hindered the full implementation of these programs, but the World Bank’s support comes as a positive sign in a country that desperately needs one.

– Samuel Bowles
Photo: Pixabay

COVID-19 Vaccines to Madagascar
Madagascar, like much of the world, has dealt with disinformation, confusion, disrupted supply chains and health crises from the pandemic. Additionally,
like much of the developing world, Madagascar remains largely unvaccinated. In fact, the country has administered only enough doses to vaccinate between 4-5% of the population. However, international organizations are working to provide COVID-19 vaccines to Madagascar.

An Inside Voice

In an interview with The Borgen Project, Pierre Ranjakamanana, a 21-year-old student from Antananarivo, stated that the pandemic “badly affected the country in many ways, especially people from poor backgrounds.” The government-imposed lockdowns and curfew impacted Antananarivo’s many independent vendors, who often rely on daily income to make ends meet. Ranjakamanana recalled that “people were desperate due to the fact that they had to stay at home for two weeks.”

“All of us were panicking because we heard on the news that COVID-19 had killed many people in China. Then, we started thinking of ways not to get the virus, so we drank hot water tea with ginger and lemon in it, washed our hands every single time, and decided not to go outside.” He also remembered that while some took the virus very seriously, others “did not really believe in the virus because they believed that COVID-19 is like a normal disease like headache, fever and all that, so there is no point in panicking.”

Debunking the “Tea”

One of the biggest challenges during the pandemic was overcoming misinformation and acquiring COVID-19 vaccines for Madagascar. Madagascar’s President Rajoelina has promoted an herbal tea that the Malagasy Institute of Applied Research developed as a COVID-19 cure. Called “Covid-Organics,” it is based on the artemisia plant, an important source of anti-malarial drugs. However, there is no evidence that tea has any effect on COVID-19. Still, the country has shipped thousands of doses to different countries, tried to develop an injectable version, and distributed the tea to schools, threatening students with expulsion if they did not drink it.

Efforts to Vaccinate Madagascar

Thankfully, international organizations are distributing vaccines and medical equipment to Madagascar. COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) and the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT) are organizations that acquire, organize and distribute COVID-19 vaccines to the developing world and Africa, respectively. The U.S. State Department has given 1.7 million doses to these organizations, 74% of Madagascar’s total so far.

In 2021, the World Bank gave $100 million to Madagascar to help the country acquire and distribute more vaccines. If implemented smoothly, the initiative should vaccinate about 5.6 million people, as well as support the infrastructure that will continue to vaccinate the population. Some COVID-19 vaccines must be kept on ice, which vastly increases the logistics of distribution.

UNICEF is also working to provide COVID-19 vaccines to Madagascar, supporting the government’s goal of vaccinating 9 million people before the end of 2022. UNICEF’s main work is buying vaccines and supporting and setting up clinics and distribution centers.

Though very little of the Malagasy population has received vaccines, it is encouraging to see the country overcoming previous hurdles in fighting the disease and finally gaining access to precious vaccines. 

– Shiloh Harrill
Photo: Flickr

New Schools
In most cases, high poverty rates and poor education go hand-in-hand with each other. However, some of the poorest nations in the world are taking steps to better their educational systems. One of the best ways to do this is to increase access to education by creating new schools.

La Salle Secondary School, South Sudan

In 2011, South Sudan gained independence and became the world’s youngest country after decades of civil war. Unfortunately, it also became one of the world’s poorest countries with a national poverty rate of 82.3% in 2016.

In addition to its high poverty, according to data from 2018, just about a third of the country’s population is literate. With less than 5% of eligible children attending secondary school and “72% of primary-aged children” not attending primary school in 2017, South Sudan is “the most educationally challenged [country] in the world,” the La Salle International Foundation says.

In response to the issue, in 2018, the De La Salle Brothers established a new all-boys high school in Rumbek. The school can hold more than 300 students and training has been provided to local teachers to ensure that students are receiving the best education possible. Classes at the La Salle Secondary School began in 2019.

Royal International College, Equatorial Guinea

Equatorial Guinea is located on the West Coast of Africa and is the only African country to have Spanish as its primary language. Despite standing as a resource-rich country thanks to its minerals and oil reserves, it still had a poverty rate of 76.8% in 2006.

Education in Equatorial Guinea is cost-free and mandatory for children up until age 14. However, Equatorial Guinea tends to have “high dropout rates,” and in 2004, just 50% of primary-aged students attended primary school in the country, the U.N. said.

Also, the entire country has only one main tertiary institution for post-secondary students, the National University of Equatorial Guinea. The goal of the Royal International College is to provide more post-secondary options for students while preparing them for the global stage. The Royal International College plans to open in 2023, boasting an internationally accredited curriculum and international teachers. The school will contain 20 classrooms, a computer lab, a science lab, a reading room and various recreational facilities.

Bougainvillea, Madagascar

Africa’s island nation, Madagascar, had a poverty rate of 70.7% in 2012. According to UNESCO, as for education, one-third of Madagascar’s children do not finish primary school. Furthermore, 97% of 10-year-old children in the country do not have the reading skills to “read single sentences,” Forbes reported.

In 2017, primary school enrollment stood high at 76% but took a nosedive to about 24% for lower and upper secondary schools. Even though enrollment in primary school is high, only 7% of children actually finished primary school in 2017.

Thanks to Maggie Grout’s nonprofit, Thinking Huts, Fianarantsoa city welcomed a new school in April 2022 named Bougainvillea. Unlike most schools in the world, Bougainvillea is an entirely 3D-printed school. Planning behind Bougainvillea took seven years; but, the building construction took about three weeks. Bougainvillea allows up to 30 students to learn at a time.

West African Vocational Schools, Guinea Bissau

Guinea Bissau is a tropical country on the West Coast of Africa. The country’s poverty rate stood at 47.7% in 2018. Education in Guinea Bissau is mandatory for children between the ages of 7 and 14; however, just 55% of children participate in basic education.

The West African Vocational Schools (WAVS) in Bissau have provided more than 1,000 individuals with vocational skills over the last 10 years. In 2020, WAVS expanded, building a 28-acre new campus in the nation’s capital city.

The new WAVS campus aims to train 1,000 students annually, unlike the initial campus, which could only train 1,000 students per 10 years. Once the school opened in April 2022, students had access to English, French and computer classes.

With these new schools bringing educational opportunities to thousands of children, hope exists that the upcoming generation will be well-prepared both academically and professionally. Furthermore, as education continues to improve, the world can possibly anticipate a dip in the global poverty rate.

– Tyshon Johnson
Photo: Flickr

Hunger Rates in Madagascar
As the “fourth-largest island” globally, Madagascar holds a distinctive ecosystem. However, the country struggles with skyrocketing poverty rates and widespread hunger. Political instability and frequent natural disasters contribute to these circumstances. According to USAID, more than “a third of households lack adequate food at any given time of the year.” The World Food Programme’s (WFP) assessment on Madagascar indicates that about 1.3 million citizens face food insecurity in the nation. Considering these statistics, WFP calls on the international community to support the nation, stressing the importance of aid in times of crisis. Understanding the challenges that Madagascar and its people face, many international organizations are taking the lead to reduce hunger rates in Madagascar.

The Realities of Food Insecurity on the Ground

According to ABC News in November 2021, WFP warns that due to a four-year-long drought, “more than 1.1 million people” in the southern region of Madagascar require emergency food aid. Currently, about 700,000 are receiving food assistance. However, more aid is necessary to cover the needs of all people and reduce hunger rates in Madagascar.

According to Alice Rahmoun, WFP’s communications officer in Madagascar, due to the droughts and other extreme weather conditions, “harvests fail constantly, so people don’t have anything to harvest and anything to renew their food stocks.” Amnesty International indicates that more than 90% of people in the southern region of Madagascar endure poverty. As such, organizations are working tirelessly to prevent a famine crisis in Madagascar. However, there is an increasing need for more resources to reduce hunger rates in Madagascar.

In addition to droughts affecting crop production, sandstorms and pest infestations exacerbate the situation, making it difficult for farmers to farm or plant any food. With many people looking to cactus leaves and tubers as food sources and others digging for drinking water from the dry Mandrare River, the country is facing a crisis that justifies WFP’s concern of a potential famine.

Liafara, a Malagasy mother of five, told ABC News that children in the village cannot go to school because their hunger impedes their ability to focus. She explains further that her family has sold their possessions to acquire money for food, going as far as selling the front door to the house in a desperate attempt to provide food.

Hope on the Horizon

Despite facing extreme hunger in Madagascar, Loharano, a community leader in the village Tsimanananda, refuses to give up. The 43-year-old woman told BBC News that, with the lessons of a previous drought beginning in 2013 and the assistance of a local organization called the Agro-ecological Centre of the South (CTAS), she no longer fears hunger. CTAS teaches villagers about “drought-resistant crops and techniques to revitalize the soil” in order to improve food security.

Loharano, who now boasts a plot of land with diverse thriving crops, now imparts this information to other villagers, conducting small informal classes. Loharano has shared her produce with hungry neighbors and is thankful that her village is not facing the food crisis that many others face. CTAS has brought this work to 14 other villages in Southern Madagascar, benefiting as many as 10,000 households. However, the organization’s influence is finite and Loharano’s success highlights the need for more organizations like CTAS to step up and help their local communities.

Calls for International Support

Issa Sanogo, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Madagascar, stresses that “the world cannot look away” as “people in Madagascar need our support now and into the future.” Currently, the U.N. and its partner agencies seek about $231 million to fund humanitarian aid initiatives in Madagascar until May 2022. The U.N. has garnered about $120 million worth of funding so far. With the support of the international community, the U.N. can reach its target funding goal and prevent famine in Madagascar. Sanogo is calling “on the international community to show solidarity with the communities” in Southern Madagascar “and to put forward the funding that is needed to both prevent a humanitarian catastrophe today and enable people to become more resilient tomorrow.”

– Tri Truong
Photo: Unsplash

Infectious Diseases in Madagascar
Madagascar is an island country off the southeastern coast of Africa. It is famous for its unique climate, vibrant ecosystems and a Disney movie bearing its namesake. However, despite its colorful outward appearance Madagascar is not only a country that has been struggling with the burdens of extreme poverty. It is also a country that has strived to respond to the constant risks of infectious diseases in Madagascar that are rampant throughout its population.

5 Facts About Infectious Diseases in Madagascar

  1. Of the top 10 leading causes of death in Madagascar, four are infectious diseases. Compared to the United States, which only has one infectious disease in its top 10 causes of death, Madagascar’s rate of death due to these largely preventable illnesses is staggering. These four killers are diarrheal diseases, lower respiratory infections, malaria and tuberculosis. Diarrheal diseases and lower respiratory infections, the top two leading causes of death in Madagascar, are not on the lists of countries such as the United States. Easily preventable simply through clean water and relatively basic medical equipment and treatment, these infectious diseases are just one of many lethal circumstances stemming from poverty.
  2. More than 60% of the population of Madagascar lives far from health centers. Additionally, the methods of travel are dangerous and difficult. Underdeveloped and often undermanaged roads and means of travel are when coupled with the scarcity of adequate care, literally a hard road to health. All four of the leading causes of death by infectious diseases are prevalent in Madagascar are preventable and treatable given adequate recovery time, proper equipment, medication and access to proper nutrition. However, if travel is expensive and exhausting those in need will not have the time or resources to spare to travel to one of these remote health care facilities.
  3. Diarrheal diseases are the leading cause of death in Madagascar. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2018, diarrheal diseases were responsible for 10,832 deaths or 7.88% of deaths in Madagascar. These diseases are particularly deadly due to the high rates of malnutrition in the population. Diarrheal diseases are especially draining and resource-heavy upon one’s body and for those without healthy and consistent diets coupled with the lack of potable water and adequate hygiene that may have caused the disease in the first place. Although attention for this issue is very minimal, there are efforts to help the people of Madagascar prevent these diseases through the allocation of health hygiene products and the spread of health information. Project WASH Madagascar provides information to children and adults about the importance of cleaning their hands and drinking clean water. It has been distributing WASH kits that contain additional information as well as cleaning products.
  4. Malaria rates have been steadily climbing since 2009. Deaths due to malaria in Madagascar increased by 7.5%, between 2009 and 2019. The United Nations OCHA reported an increase of malaria cases from 402,385 in 2019 to 663,558 in 2020. This may be partly due to the decrease in incoming aid and available health services during the COVID-19 pandemic. Malaria is an infectious disease that, with the proper resources, is entirely preventable and treatable. However, just as with these other infectious diseases, circumstances from poverty block the road to health and kill thousands.
  5. After a measles outbreak in 2018 – 2019, infection and death rates are almost completely down. Madagascar has been struggling to address these issues even amidst the hectic state of the world. However, it is important to acknowledge the successes that Madagascar has seen through coordination between The Ministry of Public Health and WHO and partners in combating these infectious diseases. The distribution of vaccines led to vaccine information, education and free emergency care to those in critical condition, helping control the outbreak. Between January and April of 2019, 46,187 people became infected with measles and 800 dead during a widespread measles outbreak. Medical science and collective human effort contained the measles outbreak with only 34 cases since January 2020, according to Outbreak News Today.

Looking Ahead

As the world collectively becomes intimately aware of the threats of infectious diseases, especially in cases where there is no supporting health infrastructure, the circumstances of people like those in Madagascar become plainly dire. There are measures to take and aid to disperse that would solve many of these problems. While there is a long way to go, Madagascar continues to work in the hopes of preserving its people and ensuring their safety.

– John J. Lee
Photo: Fickr

Human Trafficking in Madagascar
Human trafficking, a form of unlawful exploitation of others for purpose of work and service, is a tremendous issue in Madagascar. With a Tier 2 ranking in the U.S. Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons report for 2021, human trafficking in Madagascar is significant.

The Issue

Though human trafficking is undoubtedly a human rights issue in every place in which it occurs, Madagascar’s economy is exacerbating the issue. With a GDP of $523 per capita (within the bottom 20 countries in the world) and an average poverty rate of about 97.5%, Madagascar is certainly in an extremely impoverished state. Poverty has a tendency to make individuals more susceptible to becoming trafficking victims as they seek work.

Another notable contributing factor is the lack of proper education in Madagascar, which plays a role in child labor. This turns into a vicious cycle; people without a reliable education often end up as trafficking victims.

Sex Trafficking

A significant human rights issue that the world is facing today is the increasing amount of sex trafficking, more specifically involving children. Since children are easier to manipulate, traffickers often see them as the best means of exploitation. In this situation, traffickers lure children, particularly girls, between the ages of 12 and 17, with promises of better employment.

The sex trafficking of children in Madagascar has been an issue for quite some time, but there has been a sudden rise in cases including foreigners. In Madagascar, it is a sign of prestige for a young woman to have sexual relations with a foreigner, thus creating another door into the sex trafficking industry. This has resulted in foreigners, visiting Madagascar for cheap sex trafficking of mostly young women. Though there are more than 700 child-protection networks in Madagascar that have the intention of preventing these cases, not all of them have the resources they need.

Children are not the only victims of this kind of work; there has also been a rise in the trafficking of older women. In this case, traffickers may traffick the women, then murder them for their organs. In other situations, traffickers steal women from their homes before forcing their husbands and children to pay (sometimes up to $3,000) to get them back. Unfortunately, this situation is not improving with time and requires addressing.

Labor Trafficking

Human trafficking in Madagascar is also prevalent in its agriculture industry, with children working in the production of vanilla and other plants. In the entire country of Madagascar, about 22.1% of children between the ages of 5 and 14 work in child labor. In addition to this, Madagascar is one of the most significant exporters of mica sheets, resulting in more than 10,000 children working in dire conditions for food and water.

Human Trafficking During COVID-19

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has impacted Madagascar’s economy. With the country implementing a stay-at-home order, a multitude of jobs in Madagascar underwent termination, thus leaving people looking for work. Along with Madagascar’s poverty, citizens became desperate for work in these drastic times, leading to an increase in human trafficking. In certain cases, parents even had to sell their children to traffickers in order to survive financially. In 2021, child-protection networks assisted 876 children, which is lower than the 1,666 in 2020. Child-protection services in Madagascar, such as UNICEF Madagascar, prevent child trafficking and violence by proposing and establishing legal frameworks which help with keeping children safe in their communities and away from potential traffickers.

Protection and Prevention

Though the results seem insignificant considering the large numbers of trafficked individuals in Madagascar, the authorities do not seem to take the issue as seriously as necessary. The current punishment for human trafficking for labor in Madagascar is a fine of $260 to $2,610 for offenses towards an adult victim, and between five and 10 years imprisonment and a fine of $520 to $5,230 for those towards a child victim. For comparison, the U.S. considers human trafficking slavery, thus resulting in between 20 years and life in prison. These numbers demonstrate the significance of human trafficking in Madagascar and the fact that the country should take it more seriously.

Though the situation of human trafficking in Madagascar is unpleasant, work is occurring to eliminate it. Through the efforts of child-protection networks in Madagascar, including UNICEF Madagascar, child victims of trafficking should continue to receive aid, while implementing legal frameworks to prevent child trafficking going forward.

– Andra Fofuca
Photo: Flickr

Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in Madagascar
Madagascar, an island enriched with a culture of religious diversity, castes and classes and growing tourism, is the fifth poorest country in the world. In fact, the pandemic has raised Madagascar’s poverty rates from 75% to 78%. The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Madagascar has been significant but the country is working to slow the spread of the virus.

Before the Pandemic

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Madagascar was seeing an economic boom with a growth rate of 4.9% in 2019, its highest level in over a decade. The country made such economic progress largely due to an increase in exportation activity. Despite significant improvements, barriers such as inadequate infrastructure, lack of competition in key sectors, poor governance and slow progress in human capital development continued to restrict further economic growth in Madagascar.

During the Pandemic

The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Madagascar has restricted global trade and hindered Madagascar’s major industries. This sent the country into a sudden, spiraling recession. Madagascar’s economic progress has faced a sharp decline due to the pandemic. The country is dealing with a GDP deflation of -4.2%. This economic loss is due to unemployment and other poverty-causing factors such as loss in trade and tourism revenue.

From 2017-2019, Madagascar’s unemployment rate was 1.7%. This rate increased to 1.9% in 2020. Madagascar’s current total number of COVID-19 cases is 42,216, far fewer than many other African countries. However, the CDC classifies Madagascar as having very high levels of COVID-19 cases, as cases have been rising recently.

A deeper look at pandemic caused factors that are affecting Madagascar’s economy and increasing poverty rates:

  • Drop-in Exports – Madagascar’s strongly developing mining industry contributed to its economic growth. The country produces about 6% of the world’s nickel, cobalt and ilmenite. Nickel prices have reached an all-time low, causing Madagascar to close its plant and drop exports. The Chinese and U.S. markets, which in sum take in 25% of Malagasy exports, closed during the pandemic as well, limiting Madagascar’s export opportunities. The closure of Chinese and U.S. markets limited Madagascar’s export opportunities.
  • Tourism – More than 45,000 Madagascar residents work directly in the tourism industry. Since the start of 2020, Madagascar has lost about half a billion dollars in tourism revenue. As a result, those who worked in the industry are facing the prospect of poverty. “Overnight, we pretty much had zero tourists,” says Thierry Rajaona, chairman of the Madagascar Business Group, in an interview with Africanews.
  • Containment Measures – Enforced governmental restrictions on movement keep those susceptible to poverty in place. This prevents people from seeking jobs or accessing markets. These precautionary governmental regulations help keep cases under control but contribute to further food and housing insecurities and increased poverty.

The Future

Although the impact of COVID-19 on global poverty in Madagascar continues to be a prevalent problem, getting Madagascar back to a state of economic growth is a reachable goal for a lot of groups. A group of private Magalyze companies holds optimistic goals for the future, expecting Madagascar to achieve a 5% growth rate through the collaboration of public authorities. Rebuilding Madagascar’s economy requires political governmental action to mobilize domestic resources and stimulate Madagascar’s struggling but essential industries.

The World Bank estimates that Madagascar will gradually recover by 2023. During this recovery time, mass testing and contact tracing should help reduce the effects of the pandemic. President Andry Rajoelina made a statement in March 2021 against mass vaccinations, calling for an “herbal remedy.” The World Bank says that a vaccination-centered campaign is necessary to ensure that the country does not experience a resurgence of cases. Vaccination is among the most effective ways to help developing countries recover from the economic, health and social impacts of COVID-19.

As of June 2021, 0.68% of Madagascar’s population has received at least one dose of the vaccine. In early May 2021, Madagascar received its first batch of 250,000 COVID-19 vaccinations because of the global COVAX initiative, which plans to cover vaccines for 20% of Madagascar’s population.


UNICEF has been working to combat the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Madagascar through holistic efforts. In May 2021, UNICEF received 200 new oxygen concentrators which Madagascar used to help those suffering from COVID. These oxygen concentrators will help COVID-19 healthcare as healthcare facilities in Madagascar often run out of medical supplies. Additionally, UNICEF is working to rebuild Madagascar through advocacy that addresses malnutrition, healthcare access and poverty. These sectors of advocacy are interconnected as 60% of those living in Madagascar live over 5 km from a healthcare facility and often lack reliable transportation and roads to reach such facilities. Access disproportionately affects those living in poverty and has links to gender and literacy inequalities as well.

The Ministry of Public Health is working with UNICEF to promote public engagement and communication in relation to COVID-19 risks. This includes updating databases and preparation plans to deal with further cases and the next winter period.

Founded in 1999, SEED Madagascar (Sustainable, Environment, Education & Development) is a charity dedicated to addressing Madagascar’s distinct needs through sustainable development. SEED has already reached over 2,380 community members through COVID-19 informational sessions and 16,533 people on proper handwashing demonstrations. The organization has been working to train health workers and school teachers on COVID-19 prevention.

Looking Ahead

Prior to COVID-19, poverty rates in Madagascar were dropping as its economy grew. This growth stunted once the pandemic hit Madagascar’s communities. As the GDP fell, more and more civilians stumbled into poverty because of job loss and health expenses. Various organizations have been partnering with Madagascar’s government to lift people out of poverty and help the country reduce COVID-19 outbreaks and deaths. As trade networks strengthen and the tourism industry picks up again, leaders are hopeful of returning growth to Madagascar’s economy and further reduction of poverty rates.

– Sarah Eichstadt
Photo: Flickr