Updates on Hunger in Madagascar
Madagascar is an island off the east coast of Africa, situated on the Indian Ocean. It is the second-largest island country in the world. Today, this island nation is facing a major food crisis and ranks 64 out of 79 on the 2012 Global Hunger Index. As of 2015, around 28% of the island’s population, nearly 4 million citizens, suffered from hunger. Here are some updates on hunger in Madagascar.

The Root of the Issue

A significant factor in Madagascar’s famine rates is its weather. The island is prone to periodic droughts, cyclones and unpredictable rainfall. From 1980 to 2010, the country experienced 35 cyclones and five long drought periods. Moreover, it experienced five large earthquakes and six epidemics during the same period. This type of environment makes it very difficult for farmers to steadily produce adequate crops for the country’s residents. Due to food insufficiency, 47% of the citizens suffer from malnutrition — one of the highest rates in the world.

Recent Updates on Hunger Rates in Madagascar

The hunger rates within the last three years have not decreased. Conversely, the percentages continue to rise. In 2017, Madagascar’s famine rates increased by 1.4% to 44.4% from 2016. In 2018, two destructive cyclones caused flooding around the coastal areas of Madagascar. This affected roughly 200,000 citizens and displaced 70,000. During the same year, unpredictable rainfall dropped food production for around 80% of citizens. Fortunately, in 2019, livestock prices began decreasing due to the higher availability of food. Similarly, the price of rice decreased slightly since 2018 — suggesting modest improvements in the country’s food supply.

Solutions from International Organizations

While the government has struggled to control Madagascar’s famine rates, other organizations have stepped in to aid the country with its food crisis. These organizations provide necessary resources to people across the island and representing positive updates on hunger in Madagascar.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), a U.N.-sanctioned organization, is providing agro-pastoral support to rural families in western Madagascar. The aim is to increase productivity in farming systems and improving farmers’ incomes. The FAO also is collecting and analyzing data on food security and agro-weather conditions to help farmers prepare for potential natural disasters. Importantly, these disasters would include climate-related crises. Also, the FAO supports government efforts to incorporate nutrition awareness programs into education systems.

As a temporary solution, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has paid trucks to deliver resources, such as clean water, to villages prone to contaminated drinking water. UNICEF also carries out routine health checks for children. In 2015, the organization began reporting high percentages of children suffering from malnutrition.

The World Food Programme (WFP) also came up with a short-term solution to address Madagascar’s hunger crisis. In 2016, within famine-affected areas, the WFP gave $20 each month to families to buy resources they could find. Also, it distributed nutritional supplements to children.

Final Outlook

Overall, the famine statistics in Madagascar do not seem to be dropping. This is primarily due to the country’s geographic location. The island is more prone to natural disasters and the government does not have any long-term solution that can certainly decrease the country’s current high famine rates. Yet, with the continued support from international organizations, there may be a bright light at the end of the tunnel for Madagascar.

Megan Ha
Photo: Flickr

HIV in MadagascarMadagascar, an island nation off the southeast coast of Africa, has one of the lowest rates of HIV in Sub-Saharan Africa at below 0.3%. This is due to the country’s location as an island and its low rate of urbanization. However, the number of HIV cases in Madagascar has been on the rise, with an estimated 54% increase since 2010. Only around 8% of individuals have been tested for HIV in Madagascar. As a result, the threat of the virus could be more significant than the recorded numbers tell.

HIV/AIDS Statistics in Madagascar

Around 5.5% of the 191,200 sex workers in Madagascar are living with HIV. About 14.9% of the estimated 17,000 men who have sex with men living with HIV and around 57.2% use condoms. Approximately 5% of women and about 13% of men in Madagascar use condoms. Around 13% of adults and children in Madagascar receive antiretroviral therapy (ART) coverage, and about 25% of pregnant women receive ART. Among children up to the age of 14, around 9% receive ART. Less than 25% of people living with HIV in Madagascar are aware of their status. Among the population of ages 15 to 24, about 24.1% have awareness about HIV prevention.

Stigma

Many factors lead to HIV in Madagascar, such as high poverty levels, education rates, lack of awareness of HIV prevention and limited access to treatment. Many of those living with HIV not only face the direct consequences of the virus but the impact of stigma and potential discrimination due to testing positive. Lack of knowledge about the transmission of HIV leads to this stigma.

Often people living with HIV will avoid being tested due to a fear of stigma. According to data gathered in Madagascar from the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), when asked the question, “Would you buy fresh vegetables from a shopkeeper or vendor if you knew that this person had HIV?” 63.4% responded no. HIV stigma is a prevalent issue in the country. However, education on how to prevent HIV can solve the problem.

Project Mitao Responds to HIV/AIDS in Madagascar

Additionally, in the Anosy region of Madagascar, over 90% of the population has not been tested for HIV. Therefore, Sustainable Environment, Education & Development in Madagascar (SEED), a British charity, created Project Mitao in support of people in the Anosy region. Through Project Mitao, SEED Madagascar conducts research to gain a better understanding of healthcare in the area. SEED Madagascar found that 64% of high school students lack knowledge of using a condom correctly. Moreover, Project Mitao is to educate the youth of the region and guide them in HIV prevention.

USAID, UNAID and UNICEF

Furthermore, Madagascar also relies on foreign support as a solution to HIV. In 2012, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) provided $60 million for a health program, including HIV prevention and treatment. USAID is also supporting HIV/AIDS programs to influence behavior change, such as increasing the use of condoms to decrease the prevalence of HIV in Madagascar.

UNAIDS and UNICEF created the All In! to #EndAdolescentAIDS plan to reduce AIDS-related deaths and the number of HIV cases among adolescents. Doing this would eventually achieve the goal of ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030. AIDS is a leading cause of death among the youth in Africa. Therefore, All aims to improve the quality of healthcare in its approach to testing and treating HIV. Also, All In plans on addressing discrimination against those living with HIV to make care more accessible.

– Zoë Nichols
Photo: Flickr

Solar Energy in Rural Madagascar
Tech companies Groupe Filatex and Bboxx are teaming up to extend their solar panel services to rural Madagascar. The companies aim to install 170 megawatts of new solar capacity by 2022. In a country that receives about 2,800 hours of strong sunlight every year, implementing solar energy in rural Madagascar can be a “viable way to go.” Roughly 85% of Madagascar’s population has no access to electricity and they do have a national grid. Providing solar energy in rural Madagascar can give the people of Madagascar electricity, thus improving their way of life and reducing poverty.

Solar Energy Versus Fossil Fuels

Some argue that implementing solar energy can help alleviate poverty. Providing “access to a small amount of electricity could lead to life-saving improvements in agricultural productivity, health, education, communications and access to clean water.” Some consider it a better alternative to the current option of expanding electricity. The current option involves fossil fuels, which can be impractical and expensive.

Also, solar energy can be a cheaper option compared with fossil fuels. Many villages in Africa use kerosene lamps as a source of light. Kerosene can cost a household from $40 to $80 per year, compared with solar lamps which can cost between $27 and $35. Kerosene can also emit pollutants proven to be dangerous to health. Examples of these health hazards are respiratory and eye infections, kidney or liver problems, and house fires.

Solar Energy Benefits

Solar energy in rural Madagascar can be the first step out of poverty by providing new skills and sources of income. An example of this is Barefoot College’s program for “solar engineers.” These engineers are from rural areas and are taught to install, repair and maintain solar lighting units to promote rural solar electrification. Consequently, this boosts incomes for poor villages.

Solar energy in rural Madagascar can help reduce current poverty levels. About 75% of the population lives below the poverty line. This is higher than the regional average, which is 41%.

Growth in Economic Development

Despite the high poverty rate, Madagascar has experienced a growth in economic development. During the past five years, Madagascar’s economic growth increased to around 5%. This was due to a peaceful transition after years of political instability and economic stagnation. The peaceful transition was considered “instrumental to this economic revival.” It contributed to “restore investor confidence, reopen access to key export markets, reinstate flows of concessional financing and encourage structural reforms.”

Implementing renewable energy is not new to Madagascar. In 2014, the Madagascar government decided to take on intensive reforms. With the help of the World Bank, the government started the Electricity Sector Operations and Governance Improvement Project (ESOGIP). The objective of the project is to increase production capacity and reduce energy loss. It also aims to expedite progress on renewable energies to provide a reliable, more affordable alternative to expensive and environmentally unfriendly diesel generators. The goal is to provide energy access to 70% of households by 2030.

The World Bank offers many solutions to reducing poverty in Madagascar. One of the main solutions is providing electricity. The more affordable, electrification in rural areas — the better the quality of life will be for citizens of Madagascar.

Jackson Lebedun
Photo: Flickr

vanilla in IndonesiaOver the past two decades, employment in agriculture in Indonesia has declined from 45% in 2000 to about 29% in 2019. This decline has been accompanied by an aging farmer population, with 60% to 80% of rice farmers above the age of 45. However, Indonesia is the third largest producer of rice in the world. Its agriculture sector also provides an integral source of income for Indonesian families and export-revenue for the country. Without millennial interest in these jobs, the fading light of agriculture could cast a dark shadow on the economy. Thankfully, vanilla in Indonesia is bringing Indonesian youth back to agriculture and making the sector more profitable. This underscores the vanilla trade’s potential as a way out of poverty in Indonesia.

A Tale of Agriculture Revitalized

Sofa Arbiyanto, 30, began farming vanilla in 2018 in Blora, Central Java. Blora is one of two regions that produce most vanilla in Indonesia. After leaving his manufacturing job in South Korea and connecting with vanilla farming groups online, Arbiyanto began farming vanilla on a 1,200-square meter plot. He now has 2,000 vanilla vines.

Arbiyanto made the switch to farming because of the profitability potential he saw in the market. In 2019, vanilla beans from Madagascar, the world’s top producer, cost more by weight than silver. Vanilla itself is the second-most traded spice in the world. Vanilla in Indonesia accounted for 29% of the global supply in 2016, making Indonesia its second largest producer.

The lack of millennial attraction to farming is rooted in cultural stigma. Children who grow up in farming families learn from their parents that farming is a dirty job imbued with poverty and hardship. For these families, farming is as a last-resort career for their children. Thus, the people most likely to become farmers seek out other jobs instead.

Hilmi, a graduate student from Cigugur who spoke with The Diplomat, explained that young people in Indonesia see farming as a life of “soiled clothes with no pride.” However, vanilla in Indonesia may be changing this outlook. Indeed, Arbiyanto said, “My initial view that farmers live in hardship and poverty has changed. With a touch of innovation and technology, it is a promising opportunity.”

Indonesia Vanilla Farmers’ Association

Arbiyanto is one of around 250 vanilla farmers ages 25 to 35 who trained with the Indonesian Vanilla Farmers’ Association (PPVI). PPVI has a YouTube channel where farmers across the country can access informational videos. The channel has almost 15,000 subscribers, while some of its videos have more than 115,000 views.

This innovative approach to training farmers is revitalizing vanilla in Indonesia. Many millennials, more in touch with technology, have learned farming techniques through this method. Further, PPVI notes that experienced farmers use platforms like WhatsApp to offer the new generation their tips and tricks.

According to McCormick & Co., “Indonesia has strong potential to become an alternative origin [for vanilla], in terms of quantity and quality.” Although price volatility puts some risk in vanilla in Indonesia, the spice is bringing life back to a sector that many Indonesians have long associated with poverty.

Vanilla in Indonesia in the Global Trade

To make matters more enticing, the vanilla market has seen an increase in demand during the pandemic. Because of global stay-at-home orders, grocery shopping and home cooking have increased. This means that the average household now consumes more vanilla.

At the same time, the pandemic has caused shipping delays that resulted in an 18% drop in shipments from January to May of 2020. Kasan, a director-general in Indonesia’s trade ministry, noted that price volatility puts some risk in this enterprise. Still, the government has maintained its support.

“When the new normal begins and trade activities are gradually increased … vanilla exports will become one of the mainstays of trade that will be expanded,” Kasan said. This sentiment is part of a larger desire from the Indonesian government to diversify its agricultural exports, which are largely dominated by palm oil. The government also wants to use vanilla to create pathways out of poverty in Indonesia.

U.S. Aid

The opportunity to reduce poverty via vanilla came when a cyclone hit Madagascar in 2017, cutting off much of the global supply of vanilla and creating a shortage on the global market. This was an opening for other suppliers to gain a greater share of the market. The U.S. Agency for International Development, in collaboration with Cooperative Business International (CBI), stepped in to help. They have established partnerships between more than 5,000 small-scale, Indonesian spice famers and international spice vendors. Thus, U.S. aid further supports growth of vanilla in Indonesia.

Through this co-op, Agustinus Daka, an experienced vanilla farmer, told AEC News Today that his income had doubled. This moved him beyond subsistence farming. Daka harvests his beans after nine months and sends them to a spice factory in Central Java, where some 700 Indonesians work.

Sam Filiaci, senior vice president for Southeast Asia at CBI, explained the broader scope of such partnerships. “Even though we talk about the 700 people working in this facility,” Filiaci said, “the employment that it creates in the United States or the destination markets is even greater.”

He continued, “Vanilla and these other high-value crops that we grow and produce are a tool to improving people’s lives … helping farmers educate their children, build their houses, get health care. I think it’s extremely important and strategic for the U.S. government to invest in opportunities like this.” Thus, international aid has a large role to play in using vanilla in Indonesia to lift Indonesians out of poverty.

Olivia du Bois
Photo: Flickr

Mobile Library
Their love for each other and the endangered lemur species led Shana and Vlad Vassilieva to Madagascar for their honeymoon. However, engaging in rich cultural exchanges and exploring Madagascar beyond its designated tourist zones left the Vassilievas with an admiration for Malagasy people and culture, beyond anticipation. Their respect for Malagasy culture helped the Vassilievas discover the mass poverty that Malagasy endure. With the desire to help alleviate poverty in Madagascar, the Vassilievas founded a mobile library system in partnership with an NGO called Zara Aina. It aims to tackle poverty through educational empowerment.

Poverty and Education

Access to education is a guarantor of poverty alleviation. Studies have proven that educational empowerment and opportunities protect individuals from socio-economic vulnerabilities. Education also equips individuals with essential skills that increase employment opportunities, along with the likelihood of attaining sound employment. With just essential reading and writing skills alone, an estimated 171 million people could escape poverty.

Poverty in Madagascar

In 2019, nearly 75% of the Malagasy population were living below the international poverty level. The country’s economy is mainly dependent on agricultural production. However, constant locust invasions and severe droughts, among other things, result in low economic productivity. This leads to inadequate food production for the country—nearly half of the Malagasy population under 18 suffering from severe malnutrition.

Additionally, according to UNICEF, two out of every three Malagasy children do not complete primary school. Just 17% of students reach minimum reading standards by the end of their primary education. Also, only 20% reach minimum mathematics standards.

The Madagascar Mobile Library Project

Upon recognizing the correlation between educational empowerment and poverty alleviation, Shana and Vlad Vassilieva founded the Madagascar Mobile Library Project. It promotes literacy-based skills to help the population escape poverty.

Each month the mobile library travels to four villages for two days, in coordination with schools. It improves literacy, community health, livelihood and protection of the environment. The program provides educational resources, including books, reading lessons, agricultural documents, workshops, community events and literacy materials to Malagasy communities. Both children and adults can borrow books from the mobile library and receive rewarding incentives such as new clothing for completing books. The program also hosts relevant group discussions and workshops, focusing on environmental issues, acceptable health practices, literacy lessons, events related to UNICEF and much more.

Furthermore, the founders of the program have also begun a seed sharing system in which people receive seeds from the library, plant the seeds and harvest them. Afterward, those people return some seeds, which will then be distributed to others, creating a sustainable cycle. This encourages agricultural practices and provides a source of nutrition for many.

The Path Ahead

Overall, the Madagascar Mobile Library project has made tremendous progress since its founding in 2015. At that time, the library had just one van able to distribute just a small amount of books to villagers. Today the program has two vans, reaches many more people and offers a wider variety of books and resources. The program’s seed sharing program has also done tremendously well as it provides a source of nutrition for children in schools. Many of these trees are ananambo trees that offer medicinal value and valuable nutrition. The Madagascar Mobile Library Project’s goals demonstrate a unique but simple solution that can be implemented in many other places in the world in efforts to eliminate poverty.

– Stacy Moses
Photo: Flickr

tuberculosis in madagascar
Madagascar, a country off the southeastern coast of Africa, comprises of tuberculosis cases among its citizens of low socioeconomic status. In 2012, 70.7% of the Malagasy population was living below the poverty line and in 2017, the incidence rate for tuberculosis in Madagascar was 233 cases per 100,000 people. Encouraged and perpetuated by poverty, this disease makes Madagascar the perfect candidate for an outbreak.

Tuberculosis, commonly known as TB, is the most infectious fatal disease in the world. Although it is a very treatable illness, it kills more than 1 million people annually across the globe. The vast majority of TB diagnoses and deaths derive from individuals residing in poor, developing nations.

Risk Factors

Lack of quality living conditions, nutrition and healthcare amplify the risk of getting tuberculosis in Madagascar. Limited access to toilets and handwashing facilities for the majority of Malagasy people have left many at risk. According to CIA World Factbook data, sanitation facility accessibility in Madagascar was unimproved for 88% of the total population in 2015. TB is also the leading cause of death for people with HIV. As of 2018, there were roughly 39,000 Malagasy people diagnosed with HIV but only 20,865 known TB cases that also had documented HIV statuses. Without quality systems in place to document HIV and TB rates across the country, solving the epidemic in Madagascar will not be easy.

The Global Fund Support

The added historical stigma surrounding TB makes matters worse. While already struggling financially, patients often fear that exposing their diagnosis will cause them to lose their jobs. This stigma is combated through support systems like The Global Fund, an organization that provides relief for epidemics through fundraising and education for those affected by TB. The fund’s employees act as a support system, thus debunking the shame that infected patients may feel due to their diagnosis.

In 2018, The Global Fund’s donations and work helped cure 33,000 patients with tuberculosis in Madagascar. For 2020-2022, the organization projects that a total of $18,045,448 will go toward tuberculosis management in Madagascar. In 2017, these funds helped increase Madagascar’s TB treatment success rate to 84%.

Biotechnological Solutions

Although TB is preventable and curable, Madagascar lacks the necessary medical tools to diagnose and treat this disease. Not only are there minimal supplies, but there is also a need to expand and strengthen Madagascar’s ability to analyze TB samples according to Niaina Rakotosamimanana, the head of the mycobacteria unit at the Health Institute of Madagascar.

Researchers from the Health Institute of Madagascar, Stony Brook University and Oxford University are also collaborating to find solutions for this issue. These institutions are working together to grant access to a portable and affordable tool, the MinION. The MinION helps to diagnose and efficiently test the resistance of TB strains to antibiotics, while at the same time being a cheap, affordable option that is accessible to Malagasy people.

Tuberculosis is still one of the top 10 leading causes of death in Madagascar, but the country is making significant progress towards the eradication of the disease. The efforts Madagascar is taking in tracking TB are positive steps that contribute to the fight against this epidemic.

Sophia McGrath
Photo: Pixabay

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