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Madagascar’s PovertyMadagascar, an island country located in the Indian Ocean, is one of the most impoverished countries in the world, with 75% of its population living in poverty in 2019. Due to the country’s insufficient infrastructure, isolated communities and history of political instability, the economy of Madagascar has long been incapacitated and heavily dependent on foreign aid to meet the basic needs of its people, with food being the most urgent. In recent times, Madagascar’s poverty has been further impacted by more crises amid the country’s continued search for economic stability.

The COVID-19 Pandemic

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Madagascar’s economy has drastically worsened and so has Madagascar’s poverty as a result. With an already frail economic climate before COVID-19, the pandemic has negatively affected both the rural and urban areas of Madagascar, as precautionary measures enforced by the government are obstructing the flow of food and job opportunities, further stifling the already impoverished. Movement restrictions, one of many precautionary measures being enforced by the government, have cornered the most poverty-susceptible households to stay in place versus finding labor opportunities through seasonally migrating. Without the freedom to move about and access markets, these rural households are hard-pressed to find food and urban households are feeling the economic effects of this as well.

Drought in Madagascar

About 1.6 million people in southern Madagascar have suffered from food shortages since 2016. The reason for this food shortage: drought. Ejeda is one of many Madagascar villages that finds its villagers trekking miles away from their homes to dig holes into sand beds around rivers in search of water. If water is found, these villagers are then tasked with transporting it miles back home. Three years of recurrent drought in southern Madagascar has almost entirely eradicated farming and crop yields.

Declining Tourism Industry

Tourism in Madagascar is a significant source of annual revenue for the country. Home to lush national parks and scenic beaches, it is estimated that the fallout of COVID-19 has taken away about half a billion dollars of tourism revenue from the country since the pandemic began. Travel restrictions in Madagascar have gradually been eased but the damage has been done as people are simply not traveling unnecessarily during COVID-19. This loss of tourism revenue has been widely felt as it has added to the people’s ongoing struggle with poverty in Madagascar.

Poverty in Madagascar continues to worsen due to COVID-19, drought and the ensuing loss of tourism. With an already feeble economy before these crises, poverty has been intensified in both rural and urban areas as these crises continue to play out.

The Good News

Madagascar’s poverty has increased but there is good news to be found. A dietician and missionary from Poland named Daniel Kasprowicz recently raised 700,000 PLN through an online fundraiser to build a medical facility for malnourished children. Construction on the building has already started, and as poverty is expected to increase throughout Madagascar for the foreseeable future, it is believed that the facility will be opened and treating the malnourished by February 2021. In a time of crucial need, foreign aid means life or death in Madagascar and no act of assistance goes unnoticed.

– Dylan James
Photo: Flickr

Doctors for MadagascarMore than 75% of people living in Madagascar are living under conditions of extreme poverty. Disease and natural disasters consistently fall upon the country. Madagascar faces a dangerous lack of proper healthcare provisions and a low number of medical professionals to meet the needs of all its inhabitants. The country does not lack hope of improvement though. Doctors for Madagascar carries out projects to help address the issues that Madagascar faces with appropriate medical care.

Doctors for Madagascar

Doctors for Madagascar (DfM) was founded by German doctors in 2011 after they observed the meager amount of healthcare provisions and trained professionals that were available. Its work is concentrated on providing for one of the country’s most poverty-stricken regions, being the remote south of the island.

This organization allocates immediate aid but it also wants to have a lasting impact and work toward sustainable solutions. Therefore, Doctors for Madagascar monitors its projects in the long-term to be sure that each one is reaching its maximum potential in both service and longevity. In keeping with this idea, the organization creates partnerships with doctors that are local to the south of Madagascar to base its aid on what experts in the community believe to be most necessary.

The Obstacles Madagascar Faces

  • Environmental challenges negatively affect the farming fields and threaten agricultural outputs.
  • Tropical storms have forced tens of thousands of people to evacuate their homes.
  • Hunger affects millions. In 2018, Madagascar ranked number six of nations around the world with the highest rate of malnutrition.
  • Diseases such as measles and plague affect thousands, especially due to low vaccination rates.
  • There is no universal health insurance.
  • Lack of consistent electricity.
  • Maternal health is inadequately meeting the needs of poor mothers and is especially complex during a complicated birth where proper facilities could be hours away from the mother’s village. Those who end up delivering without the assistance of medical professionals depend on the oldest women in the village.
  • Insufficient medical supplies along with difficult working conditions are some of the difficulties being faced within Centres de Santé de Base, which are facilities made of stone that provide healthcare in the countryside of Madagascar. Each one generally contains a nurse, midwife and sometimes a doctor.
  • A lack of trained medical professionals, especially in the south of the island.

 How Doctors for Madagascar Offers a Solution

Doctors for Madagascar does not discriminate against the members of the communities it helps, therefore, the organization takes care of the medical costs for those who cannot afford the treatment they need. Along with covering costs, the organization also provides cost-free maternal healthcare to women. As many women are unlikely to see a doctor throughout their entire pregnancy, DfM provides access to check-ups for women.

Transportation for pregnant women has improved as ambulances are provided and free hotlines have been made accessible for communication between ambulances and Centres de Santé de Base.

DfM builds health facilities and provides construction expertise to help carry out each project. The organization also renovates medical facilities that are necessary to the community’s health, providing medical equipment that is needed in the healthcare facilities and issuing training for its maintenance. Volunteering consists of doctors joining on aid missions. Each doctor that works with the organization must have sufficient experience and have a strong background in the french language to effectively communicate and treat Madagascans as needed. The organization also offers training to local medical professionals by experienced medical professionals that work or volunteer with DfM.

The Onset of COVID-19

As each nation confronts the global COVID-19 pandemic, Madagascar is not facing its first or only crisis. Dengue fever and malaria are killing more people in Madagascar than COVID-19, yet the pandemic is still emphasizing the urgency of improvement needed in medical care and the importance of access to healthcare. In fact, it is even shaping how some of the highest authorities in Madagascar influence this important matter through their advocacy. The Bishops’ Conference of Madagascar (CEM) stated that “The health crisis reveals the importance of an efficient health structure… we believe the time has come to look for ways to improve public health as a whole.”

The Future of Madagascar

The need for medical aid in Madagascar is a pressing issue. Doctors for Madagascar has proven that through awareness, action and understanding, impoverished communities can be helped in both the short and the long term. It is true that the country faces many recurring threats but that does not mean there has been no positive change. These changes can be seen in Madagascar today, which can provide an optimistic outlook on working to reduce poverty in other countries as well.

– Amy Schlagel
Photo: Flickr

Operation Christmas ChildFor most of the world, Christmas comes once a year. A day full of red bows and snow glistening in the December sun. Not so for Samaritan’s Purse, a nonprofit headquartered in North Carolina. For them, Christmas is not merely a holiday, but a lifestyle. Operation Christmas Child began as a mom and pop project in the United Kingdom. It quickly grew into a worldwide phenomenon under the umbrella of Samaritan’s Purse. Over 150 countries annually take part in the program. Every year volunteers fill shoeboxes with toys, basic care items and a message of hope for the eager hands of boys and girls living in underdeveloped countries.

Volunteers from around the world spend the months leading up to Christmas filling boxes to the brim. Schools, churches, community organizations and individuals all work to bring a glimmer of light to poverty-stricken countries. Last year, Samaritan’s Purse was able to collect 10.5 million shoeboxes to give to the world’s poor.

Operation Christmas Child in Madagascar

One country in particular that reaps from Operation Christmas Child’s generosity is Madagascar. Madagascar is an African island nearly 800 miles from the shoreline of Mozambique. It is home to exotic species, the deciduous baobab trees and unfortunately, overwhelming statistical poverty. According to The World Bank, 70.7% of the population lived below the poverty line in 2012. Three factors that play a role in the rise of poverty in Madagascar are political crises, climate shocks and a sharp increase in global food prices.

With all the compounding factors that exacerbate poverty, Madagascar is a perfect destination for Operation Christmas Child to focus its energy.

Students in Madagascar

It was the summer of 2017. Mary Patton Murphy, a rising high school junior, packed her bags for her first trip across the world. Murphy is one of around thirty students that was able to be a part of the competitive week-long student vision trip with Samaritan’s Purse in 2017.

For years, Murphy had packed shoeboxes in the months leading to Christmas and dropped them off during National Collection Week. One year, a child that received one of her boxes sent Murphy a letter thanking her. This personal experience made her fall deeply in love with the organization. Murphy’s trip to Madagascar allowed her to see the ins and outs of the organization.

“It is such a well-run process,” says Murphy, “[the organization] truly maximize[s] their resources.” Murphy witnessed this first-hand during her time spent in Madagascar. Volunteers visited two distribution centers a day where each shoebox is diligently cared for and searched to ensure the safety of the delivery.

Murphy illustrated the process, noting that it “is a long one.” She expounded adding that “the shoeboxes travel to a local collection center. Then they are consolidated into carton boxes and sent to a processing center to make sure there isn’t anything harmful in any of the shoeboxes like toothpaste because the kids will try to eat it. They might add to a box if it is low on supplies or toys. Then the shoeboxes are shipped across the world. Some of these kids have never received a present before.”

Wrapping Up

Volunteers of all ages are the driving forcing behind this operation from beginning to end. They all advocate to make a difference in the lives of impoverished children across the globe. For individuals who would like to advocate on behalf of these children, they should visit this website.

The leaves fade from various shades of red and yellow and the morning air turns crisp and cool. The collection of shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child will soon be underway. Make an early start to the season of giving with a mere shoebox, a few toys and a heart for the world’s poor.

Chatham Kennedy
Photo: Flickr

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

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

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

poverty in Madagascar

Madagascar is the fifth-largest island in the world and boasts an array of natural resources. Despite this, poverty in Madagascar ranks among the highest in the world. Due to an upturn in the economy, things may be looking up, but there is still much work to be done before conditions truly improve. Here are 10 facts about poverty in Madagascar.

10 Facts About Poverty in Madagascar

  1. The majority of people in Madagascar live in extreme poverty. Currently, 75% of the population of Madagascar lives on less than $1.90 per day. This means that three-fourths of the 25.6 million inhabitants of Madagascar live beneath the international poverty line as defined by the World Bank.
  2. Children are among the hardest hit by poverty in Madagascar. More than 80% of those under 18 in Madagascar live in extreme poverty. Additionally, UNICEF declares that chronic malnutrition affects almost half of children under five, with stunted growth being a major concern.
  3. Extreme poverty pushes children in Madagascar into child labor. Approximately 5.7 million children, about half of the population under 18, participate in labor of some kind. Many of these children work instead of attending school. One in four child laborers perform work that is potentially damaging to their health.
  4. The island nation’s unique and isolated geography is also a contributing factor to poverty. For the country’s rural poor, who largely subsist on farming and fishing, climate change has been particularly detrimental. Water levels continue to rise, and Madagascar’s location makes it very susceptible to cyclones. These factors lead to drought and food insecurity in the already poor nation.
  5. Though 80% of Madagascar’s residents live in rural areas, the country is not currently able to sustain itself. Madagascar has to import 15% of essentials like rice and milk. Slash and burn farming techniques and over-farming has led to deforestation on a large scale. Only 10% of Madagascar’s original rainforest is still intact.
  6. Madagascar’s poor infrastructure also negatively affects its economy. Of the more than 30,000 miles of roads in the country, only about 11% are paved. Many of these roads become impossible to pass during the nation’s rainy season. Furthermore, railroads are not in much better shape; there are two unconnected lines in poor condition.
  7. Despite the aforementioned woes, Madagascar has seen rapid economic growth in the past few years. 2018 saw a growth of 5.1%, bringing with it a two percent increase in per capita income. Sectors such as exports, transportation and finance drive this economic growth. However, poverty continues to decrease at a slow rate: only about three percent since 2012. This slow rate most likely results from the majority of population working in agriculture, an industry that has not quite caught up with modern trends.
  8. Water scarcity and sanitation is a significant problem in Madagascar. Only about half of Madagascar’s population has access to clean water. In places with limited access to water, women and girls often bear the brunt of the work of having to collect it. This time-consuming and physically difficult work hinders their ability to attend school and earn income. In Southern Madagascar, 90% of houses lack basic sanitation needs. Open defecation is common, leading to the prevalence of waterborne diseases such as diarrhea.
  9. WaterAid is an organization that seeks to give everyone across the globe access to clean water, toilets and proper hygiene, including those in Madagascar. The organization launched its water, sanitation and hygiene plan (WASH) in Madagascar, and coordinated with local authorities to improve conditions across the nation. The National Action Plan, launched in 2017, hopes to reduce growth stunting in children under five by nearly 10%, and also aims to increase access to drinking water and proper sanitation, to 65% and 30% of households, respectively.
  10. SEED Madagascar is a non-governmental organization (NGO) that works specifically in the Anosy region of Southeast Madagascar. The organization creates projects related to education, community health, environmental conservation and sustainable livelihoods. All of SEED’s programs are suggested by the people of Madagascar themselves. Ideally one day, they will independently create and implement projects. In one such project, a 20,000 liter rainwater harvesting system placed on the roof of a primary school in Ambandrika provided clean water for 144 school children and 750 members of the wider community. Additional benefits of SEED’s work include allowing more time to create marketable goods as well as more time to care for children.

Poverty in Madagascar is widespread, and the situation will not improve if it is ignored. Economic growth and organizations like SEED Madagascar and WaterAid are taking important steps, but the issue must continue to be addressed.

– Joshua Roberts
Photo: Flickr

69. South Africa & Madagascar Sign the African Tripartite Free Trade AreaWith the growing appeal of economic integration in Africa, more pressure is being put on state actors to sign the African Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA). This agreement, along with the existence of other regional trade alliances, are a large factor that drives local growth. As of now, 20 of 26 countries have signed the agreement: the latest addition to sign the African Tripartite Free Trade Area agreement are South Africa and Madagascar, in July 2017.

The African Tripartite Free Trade Area namely is meant to bring together partnering members of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the East African Community (EAC) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). Most of these 26 countries signed the TFTA into action on June 10th of 2015 in Sharm-el-Sheik, Egypt, representing “48 percent of the African Union membership, 51 percent of continental GDP and a combined population of 632 million“.

As more parties sign the African Tripartite agreement and bring it closer to finalization, they are expected to benefit from a more diversified trade market with a higher proportion of intermediate and value-added products. This will likewise bring in more investments towards infrastructure, connectivity, and production linkages in regional value chains to better integrate into global value chains.

The TFTA Declaration of 2015 focuses on industrial development, infrastructure development, and market integration, and is made up of 45 articles and 10 annexes covering a range of provisions. It intends to liberalize 100 percent of tariff lines by consolidating tariff regimes of the EAC and SADC. These are not extraordinary numbers, as 60 to 85 percent liberalization was agreed upon before entry into the Agreement with the remaining 40 to 15 percent to be negotiated over the ensuing five to eight years.

Secondly, it aims to create a process in which problems that arise with non-tariff barriers can be identified, reported, and resolved through the creation of a sub-committee devoted to this. The Declaration also sets out conditions on goods for preferential rules of origin, plus safety measures on dumping, subsidization and imports surges with the creation of a dispute settling body. Further provisions include those on the elimination of quantitative restrictions, customs cooperation, trade facilitation, infant industries and balances of payments. Most of these are consistent under World Trade Organization obligations and international best practices.

Since the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) Agreement is currently being negotiated alongside the TFTA, this means the TFTA is now part of the acquis of trade integration in Africa so that the CFTA will build off of the TFTA. The CFTA can also prove beneficial as a starting point for dialogue with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and to North and Central African blocs next.

Since the last meeting of the Tripartite Committee of Sectoral Ministers in Kampala, Uganda, previously outstanding annexes have been approved and adopted as the agreement nears its expected entry date of October 2017. Now only 14 more countries need to rectify the agreement, Egypt being the first and only one to do so thus far. This will allow these countries to enjoy a larger, freer and more integrated market with flow of business persons, competitive business and investments throughout Africa.

Zar-Tashiya Khan

Photo: Flickr

How to Help People in Madagascar
Madagascar is one of the poorest nations in the world. In fact, 70% of the people in Madagascar live below the poverty line, and the country has seen little progress. Those that live in rural Madagascar see poverty rates double that of urban Madagascar, and 80 percent of Madagascar’s population lives in rural areas. However, many discovered how to help people in Madagascar. Here are five organizations that are doing just that.

Water Aid

WaterAid identified that the majority of Malagasy residents do not have access to proper sanitation. Additionally, 11.7 million people in Madagascar lack access to clean water. This resulted in the deaths of nearly 4,000 children each year. To combat this issue, WaterAid installs wells and latrines using different techniques depending on the area. WaterAid also played a role in developing a rice bank system where locals can take loans of rice or money and pay it back slowly over time. This led to the development of small businesses within the community and reduced the threat of a rice shortage. Donate here to support WaterAid’s mission.

SEED Madagascar

SEED Madagascar works directly with local partners to develop dynamic programs that help people in Madagascar. These programs include health education and school construction. Additionally, SEED Madagascar teaches residents technical skills and conducts environmental preservation research. Many projects are successful in enhancing the lives of thousands of Malagasy locals. Help fund these projects today!

Blue Ventures

Blue Ventures is an organization whose main goal is to make the fishing industry in Madagascar more sustainable. Due to their efforts, the marine environment became more secure, and local fisheries are more efficiently managed. Other focus areas include education, family planning and health services. Support Blue Ventures by becoming a sponsor or a volunteer.

Action Against Hunger

Action Against Hunger is an organization that works to provide food security to people in almost 50 countries. The group and helps prevent undernourishment. It also collects and distributes data about it. The organization supports food security, emergency relief, sanitation and clean water access. Action Against Hunger reports that in 2016, “18,270 people gained economic self-sufficiency, 15,998 people received nutritional support, and 10,421 people accessed safe water and sanitation” in Madagascar alone. This organization knows how to help people in Madagascar! Assist in making a difference now.

Feedback Madagascar

Feedback Madagascar is a multi-faceted organization that teaches Malagasy residents that health and environmental qualities are interrelated. For example, the organization aids outhouse construction, gardening, community nutrition training and promoting the sale of contraceptives and “water-treatment products.” Take part in something bigger than yourself!

Organizations that learned how to help people in Madagascar are indispensable. Lives are changed and hope is imparted in the hearts of hundreds of Malagasy residents who may not have survived without assistance. With a little help from others, every person in Madagascar has the ability to live a healthier and more fulfilling life.

Emma Tennyson

Photo: Flickr