Distance Learning in Madagascar
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused school closures in countries around the world, including Madagascar. Schools in Madagascar remain closed, according to the U.S. Embassy. The country already struggles with education access, specifically for children in poverty. In order to alleviate the impacts of COVID-19 on education access, the government is using existing systems to help students utilize distance learning in Madagascar.

Poverty and Education

The World Bank reported that about 1.4 million children dropped out of primary school in Madagascar in 2012. When 55 teachers in Madagascar participated in a survey, 38% said poverty was a reason students did not progress through school. With 75% of the population living in poverty, many people are vulnerable to the impacts of poverty on their access to education.

How Distance Learning Started

Madagascar’s government noticed that children in poverty, specifically those living in remote areas, were often not in school. In order to address this problem, the government began creating distance learning programs in 2005. The programs were directed toward the radio because pre-tests showed that children were “glued to the radio” whether or not they were attending school. With the use of wind-up radios, students in rural areas were able to access distance learning in Madagascar even if they did not have access to electricity. After its completion in 2017, each one was about 15 minutes long. Their target was children between the ages of 5 and 9. Not only do the programs encourage children to re-enter school, but they also teach important life skills. These skills include self-esteem, getting along with others, communication, gender equality, assessing risks, decision making and protecting the environment.

UNICEF also helped develop distance learning programs in Madagascar. The organization created a radio show designed to teach things like math, life skills and literacy. The name of the show is ‘O!O’ and it approaches education through engaging entertainment.

Distance Learning During COVID-19

Since schools have closed as a result of COVID-19, programs for distance learning in Madagascar have been expanded. In addition to the radio, Madagascar’s government is using television and Youtube broadcasts to help students access education. The radio programs are aimed at first and second-grade students. They air on both the radio and a platform called WeTransfer. UNICEF is supporting these programs.

Madagascar’s television programs focus on teaching math in French to students in primary school and they are also available on YouTube. The Japan International Cooperation Agency is helping to provide support for television learning in Madagascar. In order to ramp up the production of educational television programs, The Ministry of National Education and Technical and Vocational Education (MENETP) is stepping in. The ministry is running a recruitment drive in order to increase the number of designers working on the programs.

Additionally, the media is playing a role in ensuring that students have access to education through the edutainment program Kilasy Pour Tous. In partnership with MENETP, the media is helping to make sure that educational television and radio programs air every morning.

While COVID-19 has caused many schools to close, existing infrastructure for distance learning in Madagascar has helped address access to education. Educational radio and television programs are available to students. With support from UNICEF, the Japan International Cooperation Agency and the media, these programs air every day and provide students with a pathway to learning at home.

Melody Kazel
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Disability and Poverty in Madagascar
In 2014, Madagascar partnered with the World Health Organization to implement the Disability Action Plan. While there are no specifics on the number of disabled persons in Madagascar, an article in the Journal of Rehabilitation Methods estimates that about 2.8 million persons with disabilities exist in the country. The goals of the Action Plan are to increase access for persons with disabilities to healthcare services and programs, extend support services and rehabilitation, and strengthen data collection on disability so it can be compared internationally. Organizations such as Humanity and Inclusion have also been working to improve the correlation between disability and poverty in Madagascar.

Access to Rehabilitation

The regions around Madagascar have about 1.6 physicians for every 10,000 people, whereas Madagascar has about 1. Eight rehabilitation specialists were trained by “A Rehabilitation Training Partnership in Madagascar” in 2015, contributing to the now 10 total specialists in the country. This means limited access to medical professionals trained in rehabilitation for persons with disabilities

Rehabilitation for people with disabilities can span from fitting them with orthopedic limbs and hearing aids to providing people with mental disabilities education on how their disability affects them as well as how to work with it in their daily lives. Sufficient rehabilitation for persons with disabilities was low in 2011, with The World Health Organization reporting that about 3% of people received it globally. People often view disability and poverty in Madagascar, and globally, as a cycle. A 2017 study called “Poverty and disability in low- and middle-income countries: A systematic review” reported that poverty and disability appear to exist in a cycle in lower and middle-income areas, where poverty can lead to disability and disability can lead to poverty.

How Disability Impacts Poverty

According to “A Survey of World Bank poverty Assessments” by Jeanine Braithwaite and Daniel Mont, when receiving the same income as persons without disabilities, persons with disabilities will have a lower standard of living. This is due to the different needs of persons with disabilities. Braithwaite and Mont’s studies into disability in developing countries revealed that households with persons with disabilities were slightly more likely to be in poverty.

How Poverty Impacts Disability

Poverty has been shown to limit access to healthcare in Madagascar. About 75% of Madagascar’s population lives below the international poverty line, according to The World Bank. The cost of healthcare, and transportation to healthcare centers, can be barriers for people in poverty to accessing treatment. USAID reported that less than 40% of Madagascar’s population lives within an hour’s walk, or 5 kilometers, from a healthcare center, meaning many people face additional transportation costs when they need to access healthcare.

A study about the barriers to implementing the Disability Action Plan in Madagascar stated that of “disability-adjusted life” in 2004, 29% was caused by non-communicable diseases. The report concluded that the data correlates with limited access to treatment, revealing a link between disability and poverty in Madagascar through the way that poverty impacts healthcare access.

Solutions

Madagascar has previously passed the Law on Disability, which promoted the freedoms and equal rights of persons with disabilities. The National Decade of Disabled Persons, a time frame in which the government would work to improve conditions for those with disabilities, was ratified in Madagascar in 2002 and ran from 2003-2013. Since passing those pieces of legislation, Madagascar has been working to implement The World Health Organization’s global Disability Action Plan since 2014. Expectations have determined that it will wrap up in 2021.

The country has already made some strides toward completing the program and impacting disability and poverty in Madagascar. In 2015, Madagascar ran a workshop and training program in partnership with Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, which the Rehabilitation Medicine in Madagascar and a counterpart in the United Kingdom then delivered. This workshop trained and licensed eight new doctors. The doctors have now created the Association of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine of Madagascar (AMPRMada), which has created a database for Madagascar rehabilitation centers to use. Today, according to an AMPRMada report, its database greatly helps rehabilitation planning nationally because it provides a single place to access all the rehabilitation centers’ data.

Humanity and Inclusion have also been working to improve the lives of persons with disabilities in Madagascar. The organization has been in Madagascar for 30 years. One of its ongoing projects focuses on ensuring persons with disabilities have access to adequate rehabilitation by:

  • Examining barriers to accessing rehabilitation services
  • Assessing the related economic areas
  • Setting up and improving rehabilitation services and “orthopedic fitting,” which means ensuring things like prosthetic limbs and metal braces fit patients correctly
  • Looking into increasing “education, training, and networking” in order to increase the number of rehabilitation workers
  • Improving funding for rehabilitation services
  • Keeping track of how the “National Rehabilitation Plan” progresses
  • Raising awareness

A report that details the progress of ongoing Humanity and Inclusion projects estimated that, when it is completed, its rehabilitation project will benefit 5,000 people, 47% of whom are children with disabilities.

It can sometimes be hard to calculate the effects of disability in Madagascar due to a lack of data. Research studies have, however, been able to estimate the number of disabled persons and the link between disability and poverty in Madagascar. Through the country’s legislation and partnerships with outside organizations, such as The World Health Organization, Madagascar is continuing to address and attempt to improve access to healthcare and rehabilitation for persons with disabilities. Organizations like Humanity and Inclusion have been contributing to those changes with ongoing projects that address access to rehabilitation services for persons with disabilities.

– Melody Kazel

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in MadagascarMadagascar is an island located in the Indian Ocean off the coast of South Africa. Established as an independent country in 1960, Madagascar is known for its diverse culture of French, Indian, Chinese and Arabic influences, along with many others. The island is home to about 27 million people. The majority of these people are currently living in extreme poverty in Madagascar.

Poverty Rates in Madagascar

According to the World Bank, 75% of people in Madagascar are estimated to be living on less than $1.90 per day as of 2019. This number has decreased since the last official statistic in 2012 (when 77.6% were living in poverty in Madagascar). Still, this remains one of the highest poverty rates in the world. For comparison, in the U.S., 1.2% of people lived on $1.90 or less per day in 2016. According to data from 2015, 10% of the world’s population lives on $1.90 or less per day.

Additionally, in Madagascar, approximately 85% of homes do not have access to electricity. Almost one-half of children in Madagascar are likely to experience stunting as a result of undernutrition. One in 16 children dies before the age of five. As an island, Madagascar is at a high risk of natural disasters and climate change effects, experiencing an average of three natural disasters per year. These are responsible for approximately $400 million in damages.

Georgette Raharimalala is a Malagasy mother to three in Betafo, Madagascar. On average, women in Madagascar have five children. Raharimalala, known as Zety, primarily makes her money by working in the fields in her village with her children, buying and reselling peanuts and occasionally gardening where she can find space on her small property. “Life is very hard,” she said. “As soon as we make a bit of money, we buy food.”

However, poverty in Madagascar continues to improve. There are many programs in place to provide economic assistance to low-income countries like Madagascar.

World Bank’s IDA Program Helps the Economy

Zety is eligible for financial assistance from the International Development Association (IDA) on a bi-monthly basis. The IDA is part of the World Bank, which distributes loans and grants to 74 of the world’s poorest countries. The bank aims to improve local economies, reduce inequalities and improve living situations. This IDA program requires Zety to take her children to the wellness center in her village for a checkup once a month to ensure they are properly nourished. She also learns how to cook and provide proper diets for her children. Children in families receiving financial assistance must also be enrolled in (and remain in) school. As a result of the IDA program:

  • 1.3 million children have had access to free healthcare
  • 347 healthcare centers have been refurbished
  • Over 700,000 mothers and children have improved nutrition

The Support of the US

In addition to programs like the IDA, the United States supports Madagascar on its own. In fact, the U.S. is the largest donor country to Madagascar. It has provided foreign aid in the following areas to help reduce poverty in Madagascar:

  • Food: The U.S. was the largest donor of food following the severe drought on the island.
  • Development: The U.S. provides aid in areas that USAID refers to as “WASH,” or water, sanitation and health.
  • Biodiversity Conservation: Madagascar is known for its incredible diversity and has more unique species than the entirety of Africa, which U.S. aid supports.

The U.S. has dedicated $109.91 million to Madagascar for the year 2020, a small percentage of its total foreign aid budget.

While the struggle for basic healthcare, education and income is still prominent for many Malagasy citizens, conditions are continuing to improve for people like Zety and her children due to a combination of national and international policy and aid efforts. Though there is always room for improvement, poverty in Madagascar is being reduced and fewer are living with less than $1.90 per day.

Sydney Bazilian
Photo: Unsplash

Girls' Education in Madagascar
UNICEF has been working on an initiative in partnership with Zonta International called Let Us Learn. The purpose of Let Us Learn is to improve girls’ education in Madagascar by combatting poverty and violence. According to the World Bank, Madagascar has one of the highest rates of gender-based violence for women between the ages of 15 and 49. About one-third of women in that age group experience gender-based violence. In 2005, the Japan International Cooperation Agency reported that women in Madagascar are statistically more likely to be unemployed than men, Furthermore, illiterate women living in rural areas are the most impacted by poverty.

Let Us Learn has been working to fight gender-based violence and increase girls’ access to education. The integrated school program, which is just one part of the continuing project, will wrap up in 2020. Here are five ways Let us Learn is accomplishing its goals. 

5 Ways Let Us Learn Is Improving Girls’ Education in Madagascar

  1. Starting the discussion: Let us Learn was the first program to address equal post-primary education for girls in Madagascar. The program includes multiple projects to address both girls’ education and overall education equality. The program reaches more than just Madagascar, spanning Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Liberia, Madagascar and Nepal
  2. Helping girls return to school: The first phase of the Let Us Learn project used good education practices to improve girls’ education in Madagascar. The program built school dorms that allowed for 230 new female residents to attend school. In order to accommodate more students, 12 classrooms were also constructed. In 2016, Let Us Learn began the first part of its integrated school program. Its goal is to create spaces for girls to learn in a safe educational environment. The first part of this program helped 600 girls catch up in school so they could continue their education. In 2018, the second part of the integrated school program began. By the conclusion of the project at the end of 2020, catch-up classes will help 300 girls return to school. Newly-built classrooms will also benefit approximately 200 children.
  3. Educating girls about support services: Another goal of the integrated school program is ensuring that girls become more aware of protection services that could help them if they experience gender-based violence. By 2018, an estimated 50% of girls were more educated about those services. At the conclusion of the program, it will have provided medical, legal or social support to 960 girls in danger of experiencing gender violence. New menstrual hygiene management services will also benefit many girls in school. 
  4. Helping teachers improve: The integrated school program is also working to improve the quality of girls’ education in Madagascar. More than 30% of teachers in Madagascar aren’t formally trained. By 2018, Let Us Learn had trained approximately 1,043 teachers. Part two of the program began training school directors rather than teachers, and an estimated 135 directors should be trained by the end of 2020. Training school directors will positively impact about 21,006 girls in school. 
  5. Providing opportunities: Girls qualified for and received 3,013 Let Us Learn scholarships in 2013-2014. Since then, the integrated school program began offering conditional cash transfers to help girls from low-income families complete their education. Let Us Learn provides families with money to help their children remain in school. The cash transfer will only continue to be given, however, if their children remain in school, aren’t frequently absent and receive passing grades. A total of 1,500 families will benefit from these conditional cash transfers by the end of 2020. 

Madagascar has one of the highest rates of gender-based violence. Women, especially those in rural areas, are also more impacted by poverty than other groups. Through the Let Us Learn project, UNICEF and Zonta International are making tangible strides to address barriers to girls’ education in Madagascar. As a result of these initiatives, thousands of girls in Madagascar can hope for a brighter future.

– Melody Kazel
Photo: Flickr

healthcare centers in MadagascarSince the coup in 2009, Madagascar’s newly elected government has been working with outside organizations, such as Project HOPE, to improve healthcare centers in Madagascar. In 2020, the country partnered with the Ministry of Public Health and the United Nations Population Fund to provide free transportation for pregnant women during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Healthcare Centers in Madagascar

USAID reported that more than 60% of Madagascar’s population — 27.7 million people — lives more than five kilometers from a healthcare center. This distance takes about one hour to walk. According to the World Bank, the cost of treatment and transportation to healthcare centers can be a barrier for people in poverty to access healthcare. The World Bank reported that about 75% of Madagascar’s population lives below the international poverty line, on less than $1.90 per day. This directly impacts the ability of people to access and pay for treatment at healthcare centers. UN Women statistics show that 75.9% of employed women in Madagascar are below the international poverty line, compared to 73.7% of men.

Released in 2017, a Project HOPE study examined the effects of removing fees at health centers in Madagascar. According to the study, citizens located within five kilometers became more likely to seek treatment. They account for 15-35% of those who reported illness. Fee exemptions for certain medicines and treatments likewise increased the use of healthcare services for maternity consultations by 25%.

Impacts of Limited Transportation

In a report from June 2018, the World Bank wrote that many rural citizens of Madagascar are disconnected from main roads, which limits their access to healthcare centers. Madagascar has a low road density. This means the country’s complete network of roads is small compared to the country’s total land area. As a result, 25% of healthcare centers in Madagascar are located more than five kilometers from the road network.

According to the World Bank report, poor road conditions in rural areas also impact network connectivity. Transportation of medical supplies can be unreliable, specifically during rainy seasons, when roads can be flooded and hard to cross. This makes it difficult for health centers to consistently send supplies to those who cannot access the centers.

Lack of access to transportation can also contribute to keeping people in poverty. The World Bank and the Department for International Development wrote that isolation due to difficulty accessing roads and transportation can limit the ability of people in poverty to participate in local markets. This decreases their economic opportunity.

The Effects of COVID-19

With 908 confirmed cases and six total deaths from COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has classified Madagascar as warning level three for the pandemic. The country is in partial lockdown. On April 5, President Andry Nirina Rajoelina announced that only vehicles transporting goods were allowed to circulate in the three regions impacted by COVID-19 — Matsiatra, Ambonym Analamanga and Atsinanana. All other public transport was suspended. For some, without public transport, the nearest health center is two hours away.

Solutions

The United Nations Population Fund reported that 44% of women in Madagascar give birth with the help of healthcare professionals. Madagascar’s maternal death rate is 353 for every 100,000 births. According to UNFPA, this rate is high compared to the global average of 216 maternal deaths for every 100,000 births.

The Ministry of Public Health and the UN Population Fund partnered to help pregnant women access healthcare centers in Madagascar. These organizations are providing free, 24-hour transportation for women living in the cities of Antananarivo and Toamasina during COVID-19. By the end of Madagascar’s partial lockdown, this free transportation is projected to help around 5,000 pregnant women.

Poverty impacts peoples’ ability to access healthcare centers in Madagascar due to restricted transportation and high fees. Statistics show this lack of accessibility impacts women slightly more than men. With even fewer transportation options during COVID-19, free transportation for pregnant women is making a positive impact on healthcare accessibility.

Melody Kazel 
Photo: Flickr

Tuberculosis in Madagascar
Tuberculosis, commonly known as TB, is the most infectious fatal disease in the world. Despite the fact that it is treatable, TB kills more than 1 million people annually across the globe. The wide majority of diagnoses and deaths occur in poor, developing nations. Here is some information about tuberculosis in Madagascar.

Tuberculosis in Madagascar

Tuberculosis cases plague Madagascar, a country off the southeastern coast of Africa, especially among the citizens of low socioeconomic status. As of 2012, 70.7% of the Malagasy population lived below the poverty line. As a result, in 2017, the tuberculosis incidence rate in Madagascar was 233 cases per 100,000 people. TB is a disease that poverty perpetuates, making Madagascar a likely candidate for an outbreak.

Lack of quality living conditions, nutrition and health care all amplify the risk of tuberculosis infection in Madagascar. Proper toilets and handwashing facilities are scarce for the majority of Malagasy people. According to CIA World Factbook data, as of 2015, sanitation facility access in Madagascar remained unimproved for 88% of the total population. As for health care, not only is TB deadly in itself if it does not receive treatment, but it is the leading cause of death for people who suffer from HIV. As of 2018, there are 39,000 Malagasy people who receive a diagnosis of HIV, however, only 20,865 TB patients also had documentation of their HIV status. Without quality systems in place to document HIV and TB status, solving the epidemic in Madagascar will not succeed.

The Global Fund’s Support

The added historical stigma surrounding TB makes matters worse. While already struggling monetarily, patients are often fearful that, if their diagnosis is public, they will risk losing their jobs. However, various groups are making progress in reducing this stigma while aiding those with TB. The Global Fund, an organization that assists in funding relief for epidemics, is hiring employees to administer medication and encourage TB patients in Madagascar to stay on track with their antibiotics. These employees act as a support system as well and are working to debunk the shame that patients may feel surrounding their diagnosis.

The Global Fund is continuing to make huge strides in combating this disease. In 2018, the organization funded the cure of 33,000 patients in Madagascar. For 2020-2022, there is a projected $18,045,448 that will contribute to tuberculosis health care in Madagascar. These huge sums of money should significantly diminish the problem. As of 2017, based on the recorded percentage of new cases of TB, the treatment success rate was 84%.

Biotechnological Solutions

Although the disease is incredibly preventable and curable, there is a lack of medical tools in Madagascar necessary to diagnose and treat TB. Not only are there minimal supplies, but the head of the mycobacteria unit at the Health Institute of Madagascar, Niaina Rakotosamimanana, said that “we have a collection of [TB] strains at the Pasteur Institute… about 9,000 strains. We have been thinking about expanding and strengthening our ability to analyze those samples.”

Researchers from the Health Institute of Madagascar, Stony Brook University and Oxford University are collaborating to help grant greater access to a portable and affordable tool, the MinION. The MinION helps to diagnose and efficiently test the resistance of TB strains to antibiotics. It is a cheap, affordable option that is accessible to Malagasy people. While developed countries have the technology to create complex, expensive tools to prevent the spread of TB, low-income countries, where the disease is affecting more people, have considerably less information. Because developing nations often cannot support Western medical technology, tools like the MinION are incredibly beneficial.

Tuberculosis in Madagascar is still one of the top 10 leading causes of death in the country, but Madagascar is making significant progress towards the elimination of the disease. The efforts Madagascar is taking in tracking TB are positive steps contributing to the mitigation of the epidemic.

Sophia McGrath
Photo: Flickr

Period Poverty in MadagascarOn May 28, 2019, Madagascar celebrated Menstrual Hygiene Day and ran a menstrual health workshop to formally begin combating period poverty.

What is Period Poverty?

The difficulty of women living in poverty, or on a very low income, face when trying to access menstrual products is referred to as period poverty. The cost of menstrual products and the financial burden is also factored into the definition. Period poverty affects women around the globe and can impact things like a woman’s ability to attend school or work. According to the American Medical Women’s Association, due to a lack of education about menstruation, two out of three girls in other countries may avoid going to school.

How Periods and Poverty Connect

According to the African Development Fund, ”the absence of economic infrastructure,” including water, sanitation, education and basic health services, among others are closely connected to poverty in Madagascar, specifically in rural areas. A 2019 helpdesk report by Kerina Tull of the University of Leeds Nuffield Centre for International Health and Development reported that menstrual hygiene management includes women’s ability to:

  • Change sanitary products as often as needed;
  • Access adequate disposal facilities as well as the necessary sanitation, such as soap and clean water; and
  • Find information, without fear or discomfort, about how to manage their menstruation.

In Madagascar, poverty can be a barrier to accessing both sanitation and education. UNICEF reported that only about 10% of people in Madagascar uses basic sanitation facilities. Of the rural population, UNICEF reported that only 36% can access “improved water sources.” For every three children in Madagascar, UNICEF reported that only one completes primary education, and families pay for 40% of the continuing costs of education.

Combating Period Poverty in Madagascar

While some girls can begin menstruating at the age of 8, schools in southeast Madagascar often don’t teach about menstruation until students are 13 years old. This education can come too late for some girls.

In March 2019, SEED Madagascar worked with Mpanazava Eto Madagasikara (MEM) to celebrate Menstrual Hygiene Day and run a workshop on menstruation. Around 50 women between the ages of 10 and 23 in Fort Dauphin, Madagascar talked with SEED staff about the reproductive system and puberty. The workshop ran for three hours. It addressed topics like pregnancy, while also debunking some myths about menstruation, such as common beliefs about the age everyone gets their period.

When asked about products used during menstruation, most participants spoke about how “single-use” items such as tampons were unaffordable and that they often used square pieces of cloth or “reusable pads.” Participants were encouraged to share what they had learned at the workshop with other members of the community. The workshop was referred to as a “first step” to combating period poverty by improving the information available to women in Madagascar about their period.

Period poverty is an issue that impacts women globally. In Madagascar, poverty can make it harder for women to access necessary sanitation as well as education about menstruation. The workshop SEED Madagascar and MEM ran in 2019 are a hopeful step toward combating period poverty in Madagascar.

– Melody Kazel
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in MadagascarMadagascar is an island of abundant resources and wildlife, yet remains one of the poorest countries in the world. The African country experiences high rates of poverty and vulnerability since it gained independence in 1960. It possesses a complex history of poor leadership, inadequate infrastructure and economic colonialism that continues to negatively affect its population today, specifically resulting in an issue with homelessness in Madagascar.

The Causes of Homelessness

Its geographical location off the Southern African coast makes Madagascar susceptible to natural disasters, such as severe hurricanes, floods and droughts. Unpredictable weather persists, not only destroying homes but also leading to detrimental effects on food supply, health pandemics and overall quality of life. More than 50 natural disasters have impacted Madagascar’s homelessness rate in the last 35 years.

For example, in 2019, a cyclone killed two people and left 1,400 people homeless. Two years prior, an even more powerful storm left 247,000 people without shelter. However, some villages like Antanandava rallied together to rebuild as a community.

Chaotic weather patterns also impact the key drivers of economic growth namely, agriculture, fishing and forestry. While agriculture can sometimes reap the rewards of extreme weather, like heavy rain on crops, droughts on the other hand dry up rice plants, leaving workers with a much lower income. According to a 2017 study, this inconsistent economic growth creates patterns of financial insecurity and failure to diminish the homeless population in rural communities.

Unequal Housing

While some are able to rebuild their homes after a disaster, others are left destitute. More than 65% of the population lives in rural areas, where poverty is significantly higher than in urban regions and where most of the working-age populace resides. Homes in rural communities are mostly built of local materials such as cheap wood or mud, leaving thousands of individuals homeless after one intensive environmental hazard. Southern and coastal areas are usually the first to get hit by a weather crisis, damaging homes instantaneously. This creates a widespread housing shortage and results in the displacement of many Malagasy people.

Solutions

In an effort to fight this consequence of poverty, homelessness in Madagascar has become a priority in the eyes of the World Bank Group which partners with other organizations to offer aid. The organization currently invests a combined $1.28 billion across all 15 of its programs working to reform multiple sectors of Madagascar, including energy, education and health crises. The WBG, in collaboration with the Country Partnership Framework, has created economic objectives to accomplish in its plan for 2017-2021. Some initiatives include strengthening households living in poverty and upgrading means of transportation and energy. In 2019, over 783,000 Malagasy families’ incomes stabilized, allowing them to start businesses and secure their residences.

In addition, aid from UNDP began in 2015 and the long-term goals include ending all poverty, generating universal access to clean water and nurturing sustainable communities. Achieving these goals will ensure that families will gain new homes of their own and be able to maintain them.

Homelessness in Madagascar is a complex problem with many economic and domestic factors contributing to the issue. It continues to be an urgent threat to the lives of its citizens, creating harmful short- and long-term effects. However, with the improvements made thus far, the future for Madagascar is hopeful.

 Radley Tan
Photo: Flickr

PIVOT Data in Madagascar Is Improving HealthcareBABSON PARK, FL Madagascar has one of the poorest healthcare systems in the world, spending $14 USD on healthcare per capita. This is well below the average of $94 USD per capita spending on healthcare in the Sub-Saharan region. The PIVOT organization has taken a data focussed approach to help improve the healthcare systems in Madagascar.

After working in Rwanda with Partners In Health, PIVOT founder Matt Bond saw the importance of statistical analysis when it comes to long term change within a healthcare system. Bond aspires to have a lasting impact on Madagascar’s health system. In addition, he develops interventions that can be implemented across the world to help improve health conditions. With the support of the Harvard Medical School, PIVOT focusses its efforts towards interventions that have significant statistical results within Madagascar’s medical system.

Madagascar’s Healthcare Challenges

PIVOT has established its goal to improve accessibility to healthcare facilities. Around 60% of the population lives more than three miles away from a medical facility. Additionally, many communities are unable to access medical treatments due to the uneven distribution of medical professionals and supplies. This issue is highlighted with the current COVID-19 pandemic. As of May 19, 2020 Madagascar has confirmed 322 cases of COVID-19. Madagascar has a Healthcare Access and Quality index rating of 29.6 out of 100This is well below the sub-Saharan average rating of 40 out of 100. A healthcare system with such a low rating may struggle with the increased demand for medical attention. Madagascar’s government has set a strict curfew in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19, however, the healthcare system will still be challenged by the pandemic.

The Data

The initial studies conducted by PIVOT began in 2014, with 8000 subjects to be followed up with every 2 years. The study collected data on over 840 variables, from basic demographics to access to healthcare. The long term studies aim to identify changes in mortality rates and access to medical resources. In addition, this extensive study required collaboration with the National Institute of Statistics of Madagascar. The results indicated maternal mortality rates to be one in 14, twice the estimated previous national Madagascar health predictions.

Astrophysicist Jim Herrnstein, helped Bond found PIVOT and their data focussed approach to healthcare in Madagascar. Herrnstein believes that the scientific method used to back PIVOT’s interventions highlights which projects are beneficial to the overall health of Madagascar’s population. The data suggest that single-layered interventions such as providing mosquito nets are important. However, it does not offer widespread and long term solutions. Initiatives such as hiring and training healthcare workers have decreased maternal mortality rates and increased delivery care accessibility by 20%.

The data collected is not just based on Madagascar’s population; PIVOT also researches and tracks environmental factors that can affect health and well-being. These studies focus on the environmental factors that contribute to malaria rates, childhood diarrhea and access to healthcare. The environmental terrain is an obstacle itself when it comes to healthcare access. Between 60-70% of Madagascar’s people will travel between three to six miles by foot to reach medical facilities. Additionally, only 34% of the population has access to clean water, which contributes to the rates of communicable diseases.

The Results

Within the first two years of operation, PIVOT has made a substantial impact on Madagascar’s healthcare system. The data suggests that access to healthcare for fever-related symptoms has increased by over 25 percent in areas where PIVOT has established interventions. The use of maternal health services has increased by 63 percent, and the overall use of healthcare facilities by Madagascar’s population has tripled.

PIVOT has proven the importance of using data to support healthcare interventions in Madagascar. The organization’s scientific approach has allowed them to target specific elements within Madagascar’s healthcare system to most effectively improve the medical environment. PIVOT continues to track the population’s well-being and use of medical facilities to ensure their programs continue to benefit the health of Madagascar’s population. 

Laura Embry

Photo: Flickr

 

Agriculture in MadagascarMadagascar is one of the most bio-diverse nations on the planet and grows a variety of valuable crops. Yet, too often, farmers struggle from poverty and food insecurity. Holly Tapani serves as a Peace Corps agricultural extension agent on Madagascar’s eastern coast, Tapani trains women with young children to cultivate permaculture gardens and promote sustainable agricultural practices. “There is a major gap in the type of knowledge available to farmers,” Tapani told The Borgen Project. “However, Malagasy farmers are eager for solutions and willing to go out of their way to accommodate learning.” These 10 facts about agriculture in Madagascar highlight a predominant way of life and discuss common challenges and emerging solutions.

10 Facts About Agriculture in Madagascar

  1.  Agriculture is vital to life. Agriculture is the leading source of employment for both men and women in Madagascar. Indeed, roughly 64% of the country’s population works on either individually or family-owned farms. In more rural regions, this largely takes the form of subsistence farming.
  2. There is not much land to go around. Because Madagascar’s terrain is mountainous, farmers can only cultivate up to 5% of the country’s total land area. As a result, smallholders make up the majority of farm owners, and the “average farm size is 1.3 hectares.”
  3.  Frequent natural disasters threaten agricultural productivity. Over the past four decades, Madagascar has experienced more than 50 natural disasters, including “cyclones, droughts and locust infestations.” As a consequence, this has eroded land and damaged soil quality. With the prospect of a good harvest now even more difficult to achieve, Madagascar now faces rampant food insecurity.
  4.  Rice has a special place in Malagasy culture. Rice is cultivated on roughly half of all agricultural land in Madagascar. Farmers grow it largely for subsistence, and it is a staple of the Malagasy diet. “Most people eat roughly three packed cups of rice per meal with a small side,” Tapani said. “This is a major part of the culture, and nutrition initiatives from the government have been trying to combat the lack of diversity in a standard Malagasy diet.”
  5. Madagascar is the world’s largest producer of vanilla. Despite being just under one third the size of Mexico, the island nation accounts for 60% of the vanilla supply globally. Thus, to prevent theft and provide protection for vanilla farmers, the Malagasy government has enacted strict regulations on those handling the crop. This means that vanilla pods can now only be transported during the daytime, and “there are harsh penalties for stealing.” In certain cases, some farmers even go the extra mile, tattooing their vanilla beans with distinct features to make it easier to trace their origins.
  6. Nearly 60% of rural families rely on livestock for income. Cattle are especially important in this regard. One subspecies known as the zebu can be found on farms all throughout the island. “Zebu represent wealth to the Malagasy, so many farmers raise them for both work and meat,” Tapani said. Other livestock, including pigs, sheep, goats and turkeys, are also kept by smallholders.
  7. Farmers often supplement their farm produce with fishing. In many cases, families in Madagascar will raise different fish in fish ponds they build on their land. Others catch fish in local freshwater rivers and lakes. As with the cultivation of rice, the majority of this fishing is done for subsistence because of the steep cost of transportation to the capital. This makes the market price of fish much too costly for most local consumers.
  8.  Slash-and-burn agriculture threatens Madagascar’s forests. Known as ‘tavy’ in Malagasy, slash-and-burn agriculture is a traditional farming technique that remains widely practiced in Madagascar. Farmers clear mountainous regions and set fire to the land in order to turn forests into fertile ground. However, this ultimately leads to depletion of the nitrogen in the soil and the loss of fertility. This forces farmers to move on to new land, reinforcing the cycle of land destruction and poverty.
  9. The Food and Agriculture Organization is working to strengthen farmers’ resilience. FAO is helping farmers by collecting data on agro-weather conditions and food security. It is also working with Madagascar’s government to integrate nutritional awareness into school systems and strengthen the sustainability of the country’s natural resources. Ultimately, the goal of these efforts is to pave the way for measures that mitigate the impact of natural disasters on crop production and economic security.
  10.  Peace Corps Madagascar’s Food Security Project is promoting sustainable agriculture and healthy nutrition. Although Madagascar’s economy is largely agricultural, rural communities too often face food shortages and insecurity. Thus, to tackle this dire issue, Peace Corps volunteers work with farmers, schools and nonprofits to train communities on new methods to make sure their basic food needs are met. This includes training on how to grow bio-intensive gardens and holding cooking demonstrations that focus on nutritional education. “As an agriculture volunteer, one of my primary responsibilities involved promoting personal permaculture gardens for mothers with children under the age of five,” Tapani said. Tapani hopes this work will help prevent nutrient deficiencies among the Malagasy population.

These 10 facts about agriculture in Madagascar underscore the importance of farming to economic prosperity and personal wellbeing. Therefore, improvements within the industry remain a major path to reducing poverty in Madagascar.

– Kayleigh Rubin
Photo: Wikimedia