10 Facts about Living Conditions in Madagascar

Madagascar is one of the poorest countries in the world, still affected today by the aftermath of colonization and political violence. A history of conflicts has left most of its populace impoverished. These 10 facts about living conditions in Madagascar show some of the larger issues the country is facing, as well as what the future holds for the island.

10 Facts About Living Conditions in Madagascar

    1. More than two-thirds of the population in Madagascar lives below the poverty line, with most living on less than $1.90 a day. Three-quarters of the population live in rural areas, and only 13 percent of the population has access to electricity. The country has one of the lowest Human Capital Indexes in the world at 0.37.
    2. In 2009, Andry Rajoelina led a coup that overthrew the elected president at the time. Ever since then, the political system has been accused of corruption. The judicial system in the country is both slow and weak, and this hampers other systems of the government as well as the business sector.
    3. Madagascar is no stranger to natural disasters, and the island experiences three or four devastating cyclones each year. Cyclones cause massive structural and property damage. Madagascar is one of the countries most at risk of natural disasters in Africa. In 2016, a drought caused food shortages that caused widespread starvation, and this still affects the citizens today.
    4. Problems that plague children in poorer nations are unfortunately just as present in Madagascar. The country has the world’s fourth-highest rate of malnutrition, with 50 percent of children growing up stunted or undergrown. Education is in just as poor a situation. In 2012, approximately 1.4 million children dropped out of school because of political unrest in the region, and the numbers have struggled to rise since. Now, Madagascar has the fifth-lowest education rate in the world.
    5. Eighty percent of the population of Madagascar is employed in the agricultural field. Despite improvements to the economy in some areas, this sector has grown smaller by 0.8 percent every year since 2014. Most farmers are unable to use modern technologies, and weather shocks make farming difficult. However, Madagascar has an excellent climate for growing certain crops like clove and vanilla. Vanilla exports have increased significantly since 2017.
    6. Madagascar is the fifth-largest island in the world. It has a landmass of 587,000 square kilometers and 25.5 million inhabitants. The island is also rich in natural resources, including graphite, coal, quartz and salt.
    7. Madagascar has one of the largest numbers of endemic species on the planet with more than 250,000 on the island. But since the 19th century, the rainforests in Madagascar have been depleted by 80 percent. Eighteen million people in Madagascar depend on natural resources: 80 percent of the population uses the forests from everything from food to medicinal remedies. Conservationism aside, the deforestation in Madagascar represents a threat to the way of life of the people who live there.
    8. In more recent years, Madagascar’s economy has been slowly improving. The economy grew by 5.2 percent in 2018 and has seen similar growth these last five years. Inflation was at 8.3 percent in 2017 but went down to 7.3 percent the next year.
    9. The situation for Madagascar may seem bleak, but aid is currently being provided to multiple of its sectors. Some 12,704 schools have received grants in order to purchase new equipment, and 5.1 million students were also provided with much-needed study materials. Recently, 600 schools helped bring meals to 103,608 children, helping to combat the widespread malnutrition in the country.
    10. Between 2015 and 2017, multiple reforms designed to help the business climate have been implemented, and they have shown results in creating new entrepreneurs. Second Integrated Growth Poles and Corridors Project (PIC2) serves to reduce barriers around investing and business creation. So far, 400,000 businesses and business owners have benefitted from this, and there was an 85 percent increase in the number of new businesses in 2017.

– Owen Zinkweg
Photo: Flickr

Malaria in Madagascar

The citizens of Madagascar live with the constant threat of Malaria. An entire population of almost 26 million is at risk. There is no time of day or season of the year that is able to provide respite from this relentless threat. The country’s damp climate and excess of water provide the perfect habitat for mosquitoes and an ideal breeding ground for Malaria in Madagascar.

Malaria is a life-threatening disease transmitted through female mosquitoes that carry deadly parasites. Symptoms of the disease range from shaking, high fevers, body aches, and fatigue to convulsions, coma and death. Though Malaria is preventable, countries that face high levels of poverty, such as Madagascar, often do not have adequate resources to stop the illness.

So, What’s Being Done?

The following are three methods the government of Madagascar, with the help of various organizations and foreign aid, has implemented to treat Malaria in Madagascar.

ITNs
Insecticide-treated bed nets (ITNs) are one of the primary resources responsible for the prevention of Malaria. These nets drastically reduce the risk of exposure to Malaria for individuals and families sleeping under their protection. The insecticide used to treat these bed nets not only kill various insects, including mosquitoes, but it also repels them from households. If high coverage is achieved, then it has been found that the number of mosquitoes will even decrease from within the area, as well as have a reduced life-span.

One focus of USAID’s President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) in Madagascar is the mass production and distribution of ITNs. When the program began in 2009, only 57 percent of households had at least one ITN as protection against Malaria in Madagascar. This number has drastically increased, and as of 2016, 80 percent of households now have one or more ITNs. This increase is largely due to the number of ITNs distributed throughout the country by the PMI and a variety of other donors. As of 2017, almost 4 million ITNs were produced and distributed to the people of Madagascar.

IRS
Indoor residual spraying (IRS) involves treating the insides of dwellings with insecticide to prevent mosquitoes from entering buildings. Dwellings, surfaces, or walls treated with IRS kill mosquitoes upon contact. This is another preventative measure taken to cease the spreading of malaria-carrying mosquitoes. In 2016 alone, the PMI project, Africa Indoor Residual Spraying Project, treated and sprayed over 310,000 structures in 2016 alone. In turn, this provided further protection for almost 1.3 million people.

Protection for Women and Children

Children are the most at risk to contract Malaria. In fact, Malaria is one of the top causes of death for children in Madagascar. It is responsible for the passing of almost 200,000 infants each year.  The threat of Malaria in Madagascar begins long before birth for children. However, as pregnant women and unborn children are especially vulnerable. Pregnant women have decreased immunity to Malaria. This makes them and their children almost three times as likely to contract Malaria and other illnesses and infections.

Along with other methods, there are two key treatment and prevention strategies that Madagascar, with the help of various organizations and aid, has implemented specifically for pregnant women:

  1. The Administration of Intermittent Preventative Treatment in Pregnancy (IPTp)
    Starting in 2014, Madagascar modified its policy to match with the regulations of the World Health Organization (WHO). Their intention was to administer IPT pregnancies to expecting mothers early on in their second trimester of pregnancy. This was in conjunction with giving monthly doses until the date of delivery. Coverage of women who received initial IPT pregnancies has slowly increased since the implementation of the program. The amount rose from around 30 percent in 2011 to almost 40 percent in 2016.  On top of this, the 2018 malaria operational plan, funded by PMI, expects to administer IPTp to 106 out of 114 health districts, an increase from the previous 93 that were covered.
  2. Insecticide-treated nets (ITN) from Antenatal Clinics
    Using the aforementioned ITN is the primary source for prevention against Malaria, especially for children and expecting mothers. Furthermore, this preventative measure is critical for pregnant women who might be unable to travel monthly to an antenatal clinic. Close to two-thirds of women visit antenatal clinics at least once during their pregnancy. However, part of the WHOs strategy in Malaria prevention during pregnancy is giving away an ITN in their prevention and treatment package. Thanks to efforts such as these, as of 2018, 69 percent of pregnant women slept under the protection of an ITN.

Malaria is an increasingly critical problem plaguing Madagascar. Between 2016 and 2017, Madagascar had one of the highest increases of Malaria cases in all of Africa. In 2016 there was close to 472,000 reported cases of Malaria in Madagascar. This number increased to almost 800,000 in 2017. Despite a rising number of cases, however, the government of Madagascar is working earnestly to continue to develop programs and projects with the hope of eradicating Malaria forever.

– Melissa Quist
Photo: Flickr

Health Outcomes in Madagascar

Off the coast of Mozambique, 80 percent of Madagascar’s population lives in extreme poverty. In these conditions, malnutrition thrives, increasing the population’s susceptibility to diseases that are no longer fatal elsewhere, like tuberculosis and diarrhea. USAID estimates that 100 children in Madagascar die daily from common preventable diseases. One NGO, PIVOT, is trying to make a difference in health outcomes in Madagascar.

Health Care in Madagascar

In 2014, Madagascar boasted the lowest reported per capita health spending in the entire world, $13.56. Even though the 1948 Declaration of Human Rights declared health to be a basic human right, 50 percent of children suffer from chronic malnutrition and one in seven children die before the age of five in Madagascar. Further contributing to poor health outcomes in Madagascar, the country’s national health policy often demands that patients locate drugs and the money to pay for all services before seeking treatment.

Such a policy, with no possibility of delayed payment, often disincentives impoverished people who need care from seeking treatment. Health policies like this, coupled with poor a transportation infrastructure, make delivery and distribution of medical care and supplies very challenging. In rural villages in Madagascar, community health clinics are often a two to 12 hour hike depending upon the village. For those struggling with illness, such a hike is often not an option.

PIVOT’s Solution

In southeastern Madagascar in the Ifanadiana district, PIVOT “combines accessible and comprehensive health care services with rigorous scientific research to save lives and break cycles of poverty and disease.”After they establish a model health system in this district, they hope to export it to all of Madagascar and eventually resource poor areas all over the world.

Located in a mountainous rain-forested area in the Vatovavy-Fitovinany region of southeastern Madagascar, the Ifanadiana district is home to over 200,000 people. In 2014, Ifanadiana’s mortality rate for children under the age of five was more than double the rate for the rest of the country — coming in at 1,044 per 100,000 live births. PIVOT selected the Ifanadiana, saying, “if we can do it here, we can do it anywhere.”

Partnered with the Madagascar Ministry of Health, Partners in Health, Centre Val Bio and Harvard Medical School, PIVOT began in January 2014 to establish a model health district in Ifanadiana. While many of these partners seem logical, dealing with humans has been a change for Centre Val Bio, formerly a biodiversity research lab who was central to establishing the Ranomafana National Park in Ifanadiana. Madagascar is known for its extreme biodiversity; species live there who live nowhere else in the world.

Targeted at improving health outcomes in Madagascar, PIVOT’s model health district consists of a clinical program within a tiered system of community health centers, regional centers and hospital care. Their clinical programs include Emergency, Patient Accompaniment, Malnutrition, Tuberculosis, Maternal Health and Child Health. Within this clinical structure, PIVOT is pursuing an aggressive data collection program. The health indicators they are focusing on are focusing on Maternal Mortality, Under-Five Mortality, Lifetime Fertility, Composite Coverage Index and the Percentage of People Covered by PIVOT.

As of 2017, PIVOT was reaching 37 percent of the Ifanadiana district. By 2018, they were covering 61 percent of the population and as of 2019, 70 percent benefited from their services. PIVOT hopes that 2022 will mark complete coverage and a total implementation of Ifanadiana as a model health district under PIVOT’s protocols. PIVOT’s own data suggests that from 2014 to 2017 they oversaw a decline in both the maternal mortality rate and the under 5 mortality rate. The maternal mortality rate declined from 1,044 to 828 and the under 5 mortality rate fell from 136 to 114.

Working with the Ministry of Health, PIVOT is helping to implement pilot fee exemption programs. According to their data, only one-third of patients accessed facilities where point-of-service fees were in place; however, with the introduction of fee exemptions the use of healthcare increased by 65 percent for all patients, 52 percent for children and 25 percent for maternity consultations. The fee exemption pilot program cost on average 0.60 USD per patient. Currently, external donor support is essential to the survival of these programs.

Due to a successful democratic election in 2014, international sanctions were lifted which in turn opened the door to increased health spending from national and international sources. PIVOT seems to be making a difference in the Ifanadiana district, and hopefully their revolutionary model health district will spread to the rest of the country reshaping health outcomes in Madagascar as a whole.

– Sarah Boyer
Photo: Flickr

Madagascar Measles Outbreak

Between 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 Madagascar

Madagascar, 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 Madagascar

Since 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