Madagascar Measles OutbreakBetween September 2018 and April 2019, Madagascar’s measles outbreak has killed over 1,200 people. According to the World Health Organization, measles is a highly contagious viral disease that remains a significant cause of death among young children globally, despite the availability of vaccines.  Organizations are currently coming together to aid Madagascar against the outbreak and educate the public about the importance of vaccinations in protecting children from harm.

Recent Outbreak

Madagascar is facing the largest measles outbreak in its history, and only 58 percent of people on the island have been vaccinated against the disease. Dr. Dossou Vincent Sodjinou, a WHO epidemiologist in Madagascar, expressed concern about the expansion of the outbreak and the lack of vaccination.

“The epidemic unfortunately continues to expand in size, though at a slower pace than a month ago,” said Dr. Sodjinou. “Some cases of resistance to vaccinations exist because of the influence of religion or of traditional health practitioners but they are isolated ones.”

Measles is one of the leading causes of death for children, and WHO reports that 450 die each day worldwide due to the illness.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the symptoms of measles generally appear seven to 14 days after a person is infected. Measles begins with a fever, a cough, runny nose, a sore throat and red eyes. After a few days of symptoms, tiny white spots, medically known as Koplik’s spots, begin to appear inside the mouth.

The outbreak is complicated by the fact that nearly 50 percent of children in Madagascar are malnourished, which increases the likelihood of severe cases. Those whose immune systems have been weakened by HIV/AIDS or other diseases are also at risk.

Weak Healthcare and Shortage of Vaccines

According to United Nations Children’s Fund, once a child is infected, there is no specific treatment for measles, so vaccination is a life-saving tool for children.

“The Madagascar measles outbreak is a particularly precarious situation because many of the districts have weak health infrastructure and systems to begin with, which is now exacerbated with a shortage of vaccines,” said Michael L. Rich, a Harvard Medical School assistant professor and the chief clinical advisor at PIVOT, an organization partnering with the Madagascar Ministry of Health. “Without a reliable supply of vaccines, strong supply chains or facilities adequately staffed with trained personnel, an end to Madagascar’s ongoing measles crisis is difficult to foresee.”

Doing More to contain the outbreak

The United Nations Children’s Fund is issuing an urgent appeal to governments, health care providers, and parents to do more to contain Madagascar’s measles outbreak. Efforts against the outbreak include educating the public about the safety of vaccines, vaccinating all children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years, training and equipping health workers, and strengthening immunization programs.

PIVOT, an organization dedicated to providing healthcare to impoverished communities, aims to help Madagascar become a symbol of healthcare transformation. In the wake of the outbreak, PIVOT is aiding public systems and pushing for an era of medicine guided by the needs of the poor.

While organizations successfully fight measles in Madagascar, there is also hope around the world. Under the Global Vaccine Action Plan, the elimination of measles is a target in five WHO regions by 2020. WHO, as the lead agency responsible for achieving this goal, is giving children around the world hope for a healthier future.

– Carolina Chaves
Photo: Flickr

 

Malnutrition in MadagascarMadagascar, a small island off the coast of Africa, is the fourth-most malnourished country in the world. Malnourishment can harm the immune system, bone structure and organs of the body. Below are five facts about malnutrition in Madagascar and solutions to malnourishment.

5 Facts about Malnutrition in Madagascar

  1. Natural disasters cause food insecurity. Madagascar experiences dangerous cyclones, floods and droughts every year. These natural disasters leave poor citizens in crisis (Phase 3) and emergency (Phase 4) phases of food insecurity, according to the Famine Early Warning Systems Network’s Integrated Phase Classification. This means that families struggle to have the minimum amount of food necessary for survival, and they experience high or very high acute malnutrition. USAID’s Office of Food for Peace (FFP) is one organization that provides humanitarian aid to Madagascar. In addition to emergency food resources, FFP also introduces malnutrition recovery techniques and food-for-assets tasks in which a household member receives a supply of food in exchange for help with water management. As of 2019, USAID estimates that the regions of Madagascar that are hardest hit by natural disasters will decrease to the stressed (Phase 2) phase of food insecurity, thanks to humanitarian assistance.
  2. Malnutrition worsens the measles outbreak. As the measles outbreak continues to worsen in Madagascar, children are at the highest risk for disease. Seventy percent of deaths caused by measles complications are of children ages 14 and under, and nearly half of the child-aged population in Madagascar is still susceptible to the highly contagious disease. Direct Relief is working with the Ministry of Public Health to decrease malnutrition in Madagascar and to fight against measles. They have implemented Vitamin A vaccines to treat children with measles, and the vitamin also improves nutrition. Since 2013, Direct Relief has been present in Madagascar to help during epidemics and to support child health.
  3. Stunting is a dangerous effect of malnutrition. Stunting occurs when a child grows up to be too small for his or her age due to a lack of necessary nutrients in infancy. Infancy is a critical stage of development, and if a child is not properly nourished, he or she will face irreversible challenges throughout his or her life. For example, stunted children tend to have difficulty focusing on tasks. If a child is stunted, he or she will earn 26 percent less income than average. This is dangerous for Madagascar because seven percent of gross domestic product is lost due to malnutrition. World Bank initiated a 10-year Improving Nutrition Outcomes Program to decrease malnutrition in Madagascar by providing nutrient interventions in infancy. The goal is to decrease malnutrition by 30 percent.
  4. Anemia is another dangerous side effect of malnutrition. Regions of Madagascar with the highest levels of anemia also have the lowest consumption rates of healthy, iron-rich foods, suggesting a link between anemia and malnutrition. Anemia in children can lead to developmental delays and decreased adult productivity, but anemia in pregnant mothers can lead to early delivery, low birth weight and even infant death. USAID currently treats anemia in Madagascar with iron folic acid (IFA) supplements for women of reproductive age. Since its implementation, anemia in women has decreased from 46 percent to 35.3 percent. In children, anemia has decreased from 68.2 percent to 50.3 percent.
  5. The World Food Programme is working to improve conditions. The World Food Programme (WFP) provides humanitarian aid in Madagascar in many forms to combat malnutrition. So far, they have reached 650,000 of the 850,000 people living with food insecurity. The organization brings nutritional and cash assistance to those living with malnutrition, daily school meals for children and seeds in order for families to plant crops. The WFP may have saved the country from plunging into famine, but more can be done to eradicate malnutrition in Madagascar.

– Katherine Desrosiers
Photo: Flickr

Measles Outbreak in MadagascarSince April 14, 2019, a measles outbreak in Madagascar has killed more than 1,200 people. According to the WHO, measles is a highly contagious viral disease that remains an imminent cause of death among young children globally. This is despite the availability of a safe and effective vaccine. Organizations are aiding Madagascar to combat the outbreak. They are also educating the public to vaccinate their children to save children from further harm. The island country is located off the southeastern coast of Africa. It is the fourth largest island in the world.

How To Detect Measles

Madagascar is one of the poorest countries in the world with one of the weakest healthcare systems.

Symptoms of measles generally appear around seven to 14 days after a person becomes infected. Measles begins with a fever, cough, runny nose, a sore throat and red eyes. After a few days, tiny white spots (medically known as Koplik’s spots) begin to appear inside the mouth. Severe measles is more likely to be found among poorly nourished young children, especially those with insufficient vitamin A. They are also more likely to be found in those whose immune systems have been weakened by HIV/AIDS or other diseases.

Recent Outbreak

Madagascar is facing arguably the largest measles outbreak in its history. Only 58 percent of people on the main island received their vaccination against the disease, a reflection of the measles outbreak in Madagascar.

Dr. Dossou Vincent Sodjinou, a WHO epidemiologist in Madagascar, spoke concerning the Madagascar measles outbreak:

“The epidemic, unfortunately, continues to expand in size, though at a slower pace than a month ago. Some cases of resistance to vaccinations exist because of the influence of religion or of traditional health practitioners but they are isolated ones.”

Measles is one of the leading causes of death for children. WHO reports about 450 die each day worldwide due to the illness, according to Fox News.

The measles outbreak in Madagascar is complicated by the fact that nearly 50 percent of children in Madagascar are malnourished.

Weak Healthcare and Shortage of Vaccines

According to UNICEF, once a child is infected, there is no specific treatment for measles, so vaccination is a life-saving tool for children.

PIVOT, a partnership that aids communities in resource-poor areas, seeks to combine accessible and comprehensive health care services with rigorous scientific research to save lives and break cycles of poverty and disease.

Harvard Medical School (HMS) recently interviewed Michael L. Rich, an HMS assistant professor of medicine in the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Division of Global Health Equity and chief clinical advisor at PIVOT.

“The Madagascar measles outbreak is a particularly precarious situation because many of the districts have weak health infrastructure and systems to begin with, which is now exacerbated with a shortage of vaccines. Without a reliable supply of vaccines, strong supply chains or facilities adequately staffed with trained personnel, an end to Madagascar’s ongoing measles crisis is difficult to foresee.”

Doing more to contain the outbreak

As a result, UNICEF is issuing an urgent appeal to governments, health care providers, and parents to do more to contain the measles outbreak in Madagascar. This appeal contains:

  • explanations that not only are vaccines are safe and effective, but they can save a child’s life
  • the recommendation of vaccinating all children between the ages of six months to five years during outbreaks
  • training and equipping health workers so they can provide quality services
  • Strengthening immunization programs to deliver all life-saving vaccines.

Under the Global Vaccine Action Plan, measles is targeted for elimination in five WHO Regions by 2020. WHO is the lead technical agency responsible for the coordination of immunization and surveillance activities to achieve this goal.

By combining rights-based care delivery with strengthened public systems and a new era of science guided by the needs of the poor, PIVOT aims to help the country of Madagascar become a leader in health system transformation.

– Carolina Chaves
Photo: Flickr

PA 10 facts About Life Expectancy in Madagascar
Madagascar, the fourth largest island in the world, is also one of the poorest countries in the world. A lacking healthcare system, malnutrition and prevalent diseases all lead to one question: how long do people live in Madagascar? Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Madagascar.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Madagascar

  1. The latest WHO data reports the life expectancy in Madagascar to be 65.1 years for males and 68.2 for females, making the average life expectancy 66.6 years. Madagascar is currently ranked 175th in life expectancy out of 223 nations measured, according to the CIA.
  2. The life expectancy rate has increased exponentially from 1960 to today. The World Bank reports that in 1960, the average life expectancy was 39.96 years, and by 2016, it had grown to 65.93 years.
  3. According to Health Data, diarrheal diseases, lower respiratory infections, neonatal disorders and stroke are among the top causes of death in the country. The causes have persisted since the conduction of the study in 2007; however, there has been a change in the number of deaths for each cause.
  4. The Healthcare Access and Quality Index measures healthcare access and quality. In 1990, Madagascar received a score of 20.6 on the index, and in 2016, the country received a 29.6. Compared to leading nations like Iceland, with a score of 97.1, Madagascar’s performance on this index demonstrates the room for improvement.
  5. In 2015, a total of $78 per person was spent on health in Madagascar. The breakdown of the expenses is as follows: $5 from prepaid private spending, $17 out-of-pocket spending, $33 government health spending and $22 development assistance for health. The country is expected to increase the per capita amount to $112 by 2040.
  6. Madagascar has introduced a number of initiatives to move towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), specifically, the goal to reduce extreme poverty by half.  However, in 1993, 67.1 percent of the population was living below $1.25 per day, while in 2010, that number increased to 87.67 percent.
  7. One such initiative working to reach the MDGs was approved by the World Bank in June 2017. The new Country Partnership Framework aims to improve governance and strengthen finances, as well as reduce poverty, particularly in rural areas. Living in poverty is linked to a variety of issues, but studies have shown that those living in poverty are more likely to have a lower life expectancy.
  8. Due to the new Country Partnership Framework, improvements in the country can be seen in areas of health, education and private sector development. Preventative treatment for tropical diseases such as bilharzia and intestinal worms has been distributed to 1.8 million school-aged children over the past few years (with Bilharzia receiving 100 percent coverage in the country).
  9. In 2017, 6.85 million people received treatment for neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), a decrease compared to the 8.73 million people who received treatment in 2016. Madagascar ranks 37th out of the 49 countries when it comes to treatment. There are some diseases that receive 0 percent coverage, such as elephantiasis, while other diseases receive partial coverage, such as intestinal worms.
  10. UNICEF is working to improve healthcare access in Madagascar, and it has been expanding integrated health services with a focus on newborns. Due to their efforts, poliomyelitis was eradicated and 43 percent of the population (which includes 3.5 million children) experienced an improvement in their access to health services.

Madagascar’s lacking healthcare system is being tackled from a variety of angles, as illustrated by these 10 facts about life expectancy in Madagascar. The country is working to reduce poverty and better the lives of its citizens in every regard; however, there is room for progress.

Simone Edwards

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Madagascar
Since becoming an independent nation in 1960, Madagascar has struggled to find its footing and develop in the right way. The island nation’s economy and government have both historically proven to be fragile. Most recently, a coup d’etat, illegal and overt seizure of a state, temporarily transferred political power to military authority in 2009. This societal fragility has contributed to the rate of poverty in Madagascar, that is currently among the highest in the world.

However, Madagascar’s outlook has been looking up since 2013. The country held U.N.-sanctioned elections that led to a peaceful transfer of power. The economy immediately responded with modest, but increasingly promising growth. Madagascar’s GDP was projected to grow by 5 percent in 2018.

Unfortunately, poverty rates have held relatively steady despite these economic gains. In 2017, more than three out of every four citizens of the country lived on less than $1.90 a day. With numbers of poverty being this high, raising people out of poverty has to be the main goal of Madagascar’s government and the international community.

Problems related to Poverty in Madagascar

Poverty in Madagascar is complex and entrenched. Rates of poverty are high throughout the country, but they are worst in rural areas. The country’s poor access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities is most inconsistent in these areas, where only 35 percent of the population has improved access to clean water.

Electricity, food, and schooling are all hard to come by for the country’s poorest as well. Only 15 percent of the country’s population had access to electric power in 2015 and nearly half of Malagasy children are severely malnourished. These and other societal factors influence the low rate of children enrolled in primary education, which was under 70 percent in 2012.

Most Malagasy people work in agriculture, often producing cash crops like coffee and vanilla. These jobs are far from stable, however. Madagascar’s location off the Southern Coast of Africa leaves the country vulnerable to natural disasters. These disasters not only immediately impact the people caught in their path but contribute to the difficulties in maintaining infrastructure in rural areas.

The Beginning of Progress

Despite all these difficulties, the development in the last five years gives several real reasons for hope. The first of these reasons is related to political stability Madagascar has enjoyed since the 2013 elections. The international community was reluctant to invest aid money in Madagascar during and around the crisis of 2009, but that reluctance seems to have passed. In 2016, the World Bank and the United National Development Programme dedicated $6.4 billion for the country’s infrastructure between 2017 and 2020.

The political stability also opened access to U.S. and European markets for Madagascar. These new markets helped drive the recent economic growth. The World Bank has consistently argued that Madagascar’s government will have to intentionally include the country’s poorest in order to have a real effect on their lives. The current government has shown a willingness to take initiative to address the problems affecting these citizens.

Government’s Role in Reducing Poverty in Madagascar

The government hopes to leverage the growing economy to develop a healthy tax base. With that added funding, the focus can shift to building up infrastructure, education and disaster relief around the country. Past relief efforts have been plagued by corruption, but the government has begun passing anti-corruption laws and encouraging greater judicial oversight of these cases.

Another government role in encouraging economic growth is providing business incentives and greater access to both physical and online banking services around the country. The government hopes that these initiatives will provide new jobs to the rapidly-growing population, provide more stability and diversity to the economy in general, and provide financial flexibility that could protect people from having their entire lives overturned by disasters.

Looking Forward

Progress has been slow, but positive trends are beginning to appear. Madagascar’s economy is hardly a world powerhouse, but it is slowly climbing up the ranks of the World Bank Doing Business ranking and the United Nations Development Program Human Development Indicator. Poverty in Madagascar is also expected to drop by two percent over the next two years.

Madagascar will have to pass a few more important markers before a long-term positive trend is certain. For example, another peaceful transition of power after the 2018 election, resolved in December, will mean a lot in a  long run for ensuring the stability of the country and for achieving the ultimate goal of eradicating poverty in Madagascar. That being said, Madagascar, as one of the most impoverished nations in the world, is finally making progress despite many difficulties. That’s something that should inspire hope in the country but in the international community as well.

– Joshua Henreckson
Photo: Flickr

How Politics Affect Poverty
In the last decade, there have been many studies regarding how politics and various government institutions shape poverty.

For the poorest and most vulnerable, the way in which their governments operate makes a profound difference in their lives. The incapacity of government institutions to prevent conflict, provide basic security or basic services can have detrimental consequences for their citizens, especially for the poor.

How Politics Affect Poverty

The instability of economic growth can make countries depend indefinitely on foreign aid. In countries where cultural or ethnic groups feel that there is economic, political and social inequality, wars are more likely to occur, causing a vicious cycle that leads to poverty.

In many instances the poor are marginalized and their voices are not heard. The poor, more than any other group, rely on basic public services.

These services work better for the poor when poor citizens participate in reforms of service delivery. In conflict-affected states, the supply of these services is very scarce.

Political instability, poor governance and corruption are a major phenomenon affecting poverty in the world today.

The Case of Haiti and Madagascar

For example, rudimentary to the prevalent problem of poverty in Haiti is the extensive history of political turmoil and the lack of governance.

Corruption and the misuse of public funds resulted in a reduction in the quality of all public services for the country. This includes the fundamental areas of traditional governmental responsibility, such as the police, the justice system and the provision of elemental infrastructure.

This makes Haiti the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and one of the poorest countries in the developing world.

Madagascar is another example of how politics affects poverty. Madagascar was a country with a lot of economic potential before the big crisis of 2008.

Before the crisis, Madagascar had economic growth of 5 percent per year but economic growth became stagnant from 2008 up until 2013.

Since 2009, Madagascar has been in an intense political turmoil created by an unconstitutional change of government.

The political crisis and instability created uncertainty for private investment. Throughout these years of political upheaval, Madagascar’s social and economic growth became severely damaged.

Discriminatory Laws

Racial, gender and ethnic discrimination are directly related to how politics affects poverty in some countries of the world and it needs to be addressed if it is to successfully decrease inequality and poverty.

For example, in Bangladesh, discriminatory family laws on marriage, separation and divorce push some women further into poverty.

In 20 years, Bangladesh has made great progress in its life expectancy and raised it by 10 years and has reduced infant mortality by more than half.

According to recent studies, both the rich and the poor are benefiting from these improvements.

However, according to the Human Rights Watch, women in the country do not benefit from these gains due to discriminatory family laws that push them deeper into poverty.

Migration is another aspect related to how politics affects poverty.

Migrant workers usually do not engage in political action about wages and conditions and they also lack the rights associated with citizenship and residency.

The laws governing immigration also often deprive these workers of labor or welfare protection, compel their ability to seek adequate working conditions.

Nongovernmental organizations’ Role

Nongovernmental organizations are an important part in helping alleviate poverty in many underdeveloped and third world countries.

For example, these organizations complement government in mobilizing additional resources in benefiting the greater number of people in need and enhancing program results through their participation in project management, monitoring and evaluation.

Typically, people fall into four categories of poverty that require different approaches.

The first category is made of people who are temporarily incapable of work, the second category consists of those who have some resources but lack business skills or efficiency.

The third category is made up of those who are capable of work but external conditions or resources like jobs are poor and the fourth category comprises those who are permanently incapacitated, such as the severely disabled.

Nongovernmental organizations can provide huge help for the first and the second category.

Unlike some development players, nongovernmental organizations are more willing to help and provide innovative solutions to the people’s problems allowing them to gain support sooner.

Policymakers must use conscientious new approaches to generate productive jobs, increase the minimum wage, ensure investment in low-income communities, improve education and training and create more opportunities for everyone to apply their talents.

In conclusion, it is important that all governmental institutions become aware of the problem that poverty brings to societies and the impact that it has in the economic growth and development of a nation.

By becoming fully aware and not ignoring it anymore, policymakers have the responsibility to create laws that will help alleviate poverty in their communities.

It is important to tackle it and not to continue blaming the individual citizen for his misfortune but to provide guidance and opportunities for poor people to step out of the hole they’re in.
Photo: Unsplash

How the Media Misrepresents MadagascarThe perpetual stereotype that surrounds Madagascar is that its population consists of very few people, an enormous number of animals and an increasing rate of poverty. In fact, the first page of a ‘Google Image’ search of Madagascar provides half a dozen photos of people and dozens of photos of lemurs and other animals. The ways the media misrepresents Madagascar creates a skewed image of this African country as a place populated mostly by animals and an increasing rate of poverty.

Pivot

Several organizations advocate for the population of Madagascar. One such organization, Pivot, has created a district in Madagascar called the Ifanadiana District, which focuses on providing health care benefits for Malagasy people. Its population is now 200,000.

The organization aims to transform Madagascar’s health system through rights-based care delivery, strengthened public systems and a new era of science guided by the needs of the poor. Before this organization was located in the Ifanadiana District, one in seven children died before age five. Patients also had to find and pay for all medicines and supplies before treatment.

However, there was a 19 percent decrease of under-five mortality after Pivot intervened. Pivot has built hospitals and provided vaccines and health care to enlighten the people of this impoverished country. Pivot has made an extraordinary difference to the country of Madagascar and will continue to do so until it’s health system has been completely transformed.

Halt Poverty

Halt Poverty is another organization working to reduce poverty in Madagascar. The group’s current crowdfunding campaign is to support the building of a provision of safe water in vulnerable households surrounding areas of Fianarantsoa, Madagascar. The endeavor will only cost $2,945 to serve 200 people safe water, or $14.98 per person.

Halt Poverty uses adventure tourism to advocate for the support of poverty reduction in Madagascar. By exploring the natural landscapes and villages of this country, people are able to see the nation as it truly is. These tourists will support the local economy, protect the environment, respect the local culture and participate in poverty reduction.

These programs offer a deeper cultural insight than the one offered by tourism. Over the course of the trip, tourists will get a deeper intercultural understanding of Madagascar and gain exposure to volunteer opportunities that reduce poverty.

Reality of Madagascar

The media misrepresents Madagascar by portraying the nation as an impoverished country lacking in aid from poverty-reduction organizations, but this is not the reality. Although Madagascar experiences immense poverty, the poverty rate has actually decreased in the past couple of years.

In fact, the poverty rate decreased from 77.6 percent to 72 percent between 2012 and 2018. The World Bank reported that the Malagasy economy has been gradually improving ever since the return to legal order in 2014. Since 2016, the economic growth rate in the nation exceeded 4 percent. With trends such as these, one can see that Madagascar is improving in terms of its economy and poverty at a fairly quick rate.

On the Horizon

Although Madagascar is misrepresented in the media, there is, in fact, a great deal being done to give Malagasy people a better life. However, the misrepresentation of this country in the media has caused its issues to remain predominantly unknown.

The combined efforts of organizations like Pivot and Halt Poverty suggest improvements in tourism, health systems, poverty reduction and ultimately, a brighter future for Madagascar, are on the horizon.

– Megan Maxwell
Photo: Pixabay

Girls' Education in MadagascarIn the island nation of Madagascar, access to education varies depending on the gender of the student. There is an equal amount of male and female civilians in Madagascar’s population of 25 million people. However, girls’ education in Madagascar is not the same as boys’, contributing to how girls are not given the same opportunities.

The U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says, “far too many girls are still denied schooling, leave prematurely or complete school with few skills and fewer opportunities.” Malagasy school district records show that 78 percent of school districts show a lower enrollment for girls than boys. To change inequality for girls’ education in Madagascar, many international organizations, such as the United Nations and the World Bank, have implemented programs to help increase female enrollment and advancement in Madagascar’s schools.

The Global Partnership for Education

In 2005, UNICEF Madagascar, the Ministry of National Education and the World Bank managed the Global Partnership for Education project to address the barriers the Madagascar youth had to access decent education. The Global Partnership for Education works to “ensure that every child receives a quality basic education, prioritizing the poorest, most vulnerable and those living in countries affected by fragility and conflict.” It focuses on two major goals to improve youth involvement in education:

1. To facilitate access to and retention in primary education by reducing the costs of schooling borne by families.

2. To support the learning process by improving the teaching and learning environment.

During the 2015-2016 school year, the Global Partnership for Education distributed 1.95 million school kits, subsidized 21,000 community teachers’ salaries, and constructed 120 new classrooms. This contribution gave young students the opportunity for education in Madagascar. By September 2016, a new shipment of school kits was en route to arrive for the 2016-2017 school year.

Post-primary Education for Girls

In 2008, UNICEF started the Post-primary Education for Girls project in Vangaindrano school district to increase the number of girls enrolled in school and continuing their education by providing scholarships and changing gender priority mindsets.

One adolescent Malagasy girl, Fabiola, was told by her parents that she would need to drop out of school, so her parents could support her little brother’s education instead. The alternative for Fabiola was getting married because girls’ education in Madagascar stopped the moment she could not pay the fees. At 14 years old, Fabiola’s bright future was destroyed because her parents believed supporting her brother took priority. However, thanks to the project’s scholarship, Fabiola was able to continue her education.

Stories like Fabiola’s are common in Madagascar. The rural population makes up 64 percent of the country’s total population, leaving a majority of the population living in poverty and unable to provide basic needs, such as food and shelter. This leads to families being unable to finance and support their youths throughout primary and secondary education, and prioritizing boys’ education over girls’.

The National Movement for Education for All in Madagascar

In 2011, the National Movement for Education for All in Madagascar (NMEAM) launched a campaign to promote girls’ education in Madagascar. The priorities of this campaign are girls, parents, and the government. The focus on parents and the government is because change cannot have a successful implementation when there are communities and government agencies that oppose it.

NMEAM’s campaign awarded 20,000 girls in Analanjurofo, a rural region in northeastern Madagascar, with scholarships to complete their education. Girls’ education in Madagascar relies heavily on these scholarships because impoverished families cannot provide an education for their daughters.

NMEAM also introduced the Southern African Development Community Gender Protocol’s Article 14 to Madagascar’s state parties. This protocol promotes “equal access to and retention in primary, secondary, tertiary, vocational and non-formal education in accordance with the Protocol on Education and Training and the Millennium Development Goals”. By lobbying Madagascar’s political authorities, NMEAM reinforced the efforts to allow education for girls and women of Madagascar.

With the implementation of these programs, the literacy rate of adults (15 and older) in Madagascar’s total population rose from 64.48 percent in 2009 to 71.57 percent in 2012. These programs and projects recognize the importance of education and having constant access to it for young minds because education is one way out of poverty. By providing and facilitating advancements in girls’ education in Madagascar, the future of youth is going to be better than the rampant poverty they are struggling with. By investing in the education of girls, nations will be able to achieve development of their civilian population while also breaking the discrimination of gender in opportunities.

– Jenny Sang Park
Photo: Flickr

Access to Credit in MadagascarAccessing one’s credit can be a difficult task when there is not much information provided on how to do so. Madagascar has a plethora of farmers due to its vast landscape, and agricultural production could be greatly altered in a positive way if the MFI, or Microfinance Institution, was able to offer accommodating microfinance loans.

According to a report from the University of Göttingen, “agricultural firms with flexible microfinance loans have significantly higher credit access probabilities than non-agricultural firms and agricultural firms with standard microfinance loans.” Access to credit in Madagascar can be greatly improved by supplying the population with particular loans that allow them to enhance their financial stabilities.

Access to microcredit has a profound impact on Malagasy people. As The Guardian writes, “Microfinance is seen as a vehicle to help Madagascar attain some of its millennium development goals, particularly on eradicating extreme poverty.” Approximately 85 percent of the nation’s population lives on less than $1.25 a day. Credit availability in Madagascar has been able to create severe advancements for small businesses and provide a higher income for the average Malagasy family.

Since most individuals are without access to credit in Madagascar due to their financial status, providing goods for the family and bringing in a steady income can be very difficult. Many rely on informal moneylenders who charge annual interest rates anywhere from 120 to 400 percent for unsecured loans.  These numbers are astronomical compared with the MFI’s average rate of 36 percent for the same period, equating to two to four percent a month.

Extremely high interest rates can be very dangerous for people who do not make enough money to continually make payments every month. Supplying the Malagasy citizens with microfinance loans would give them the opportunity to discontinue their relationships with informal moneylenders and ultimately save additional money for other necessary goods.

However, a country that mainly relies on farming can be slightly strenuous for the MFI. It can provide the people with loans to help supply their agricultural needs, but when the weather does not cooperate with the proper farming conditions, these loans can then be used for other purposes. This is what the institutions do not want to happen. According to Serge Rajaonarison, Chief Executive Officer of the Caisse d’Epargne et de Crédit Agricole Mutuels de Madagascar, by accurately determining the “areas and farmers affected by hailstorms, for example, we can subsequently compensate according to the losses caused.”

The prime concern for the MFI is for its loans to be paid back by the people of Madagascar. Even after the country is devastated by severe weather events, the MFI continues to obtain its money back from those who were given loans. Continued payments by the people and being able to provide a better life and workplace for the community will allow the MFI to implement a strategy that will give everyone access to credit in Madagascar.

– Matthew McGee

Photo: Flickr

French Foreign Aid in Africa
France’s intimate relationship with Africa began in the 17th Century and, like other major European nations, ended after two consecutive World Wars. However, France stubbornly held on to territory in Morocco for years after the end of the wars; it was not until 1964, after a war nearly a decade long, that France relinquished its claim to the North African territory.

France’s Goals in Africa

Now, like other formal colonial powers, France has changed its goals in Africa. French foreign aid in Africa is now meant to help develop the world it left behind. In 2015, a representative from Oxfam France defended France’s bias to helping its former colonies “because the former French colonies in Africa are de facto the poorest countries in the world. There is a consistency in that decision.”

In 2009, France was the second largest donor of foreign aid in the world, only behind the United States. French foreign aid during these years was focused to two main areas — the Mediterranean Basin and Sub-Saharan Africa. French foreign aid in Africa was focused in five sectors: health, education, sustainable development, food security, and economic growth. In 2010, France was the third largest foreign aid donor.

It is also important to note that unlike other nations, France does not have one departement or governmental agency dedicated to the distribution of foreign aid; it instead relies on a multi-agency board to oversee its distribution.

Online Foreign Aid Resources

Due to the lack of a central agency to track French foreign aid in Africa, France launched a website to help citizens track projects. The website separates aid into eight different areas: environment and natural resources, agriculture and food security, outside sectors CICID, water and sanitation, education, productive sector, health and the fight against AIDS, infrastructure and urban development.

There is also an interactive map that allows anybody curious enough to look at projects in each of the 16 priority nations: Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros Islands, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Ghana, Guinea, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal and Togo.

French Agency for Development and Africa

An example of French foreign aid in Africa at work is the aid project currently underway in Madagascar. The French Agency for Development (AFD) has worked since 2013 in Madagascar to help locals live in harmony with the environment.

Slash-and-burn agriculture is still the most prominent technique for clearing forest, and the goal of this project is to help people learn other farming techniques to preserve the rainforest since using slash-and-burn agriculture in a society with a large population is not sustainable. Since December 2017, over 1.9 million euros have been spent on this particular project.

By simply clicking the water and sanitation tab, a user can find information about all French aid projects under this category. Of the 148 water and sanitation projects underway or completed, just over 120 of these projects are located in sub-saharan Africa. Projects range from improving water- and sanitation-provision infrastructure, to building entirely new systems. Maintaining old infrastructure is important as well, since poorly-kept human waste management systems can taint clean drinking water.

The Website

French foreign aid in Africa and around the world can be traced on the website. The map differentiates between three French foreign aid agencies, or societies, as they are referred to on the website. The largest is the aforementioned French Agency for Development, who leads the majority of these projects around the world.

According to the website, this organization is involved in over 2,500 projects in 108 different countries around the world. In 2016, the AFD hit the milestone of effectively using $9 million euros on over 600 different aid projects.

Due to political and public pressure, though, France slowly began fall behind on the list of the world’s top donors. In an act of compromise, France’s new President, Emmanuel Macron, has decided to once again increase France’s soft power footprint. In July of 2017, he announced that by 2022, .55 percent of the French GDP will be spent on foreign aid. This announcement was a U-turn on previous promises made by the President as a candidate.

GDP to Foreign Aid

OECD set a 0.7 percent of GDP goal for well-developed nations, and these countries are expected to reach this benchmark by 2030. According the the President, France is on the way to reach this goal. As more and more countries regain independent influence in the world, it will be important for France to show that it can compete if the nation wants to remain relevant on the international stage.

– Nick DeMarco

Photo: Flickr