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