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

Poverty Rates in Madagascar

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

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

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

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

World Bank’s IDA Program Helps the Economy

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

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

The Support of the US

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

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

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

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

Sydney Bazilian
Photo: Unsplash

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

Poverty in Madagascar
Even with the 2013 election of a new president that ended a five-year political deadlock, poverty in Madagascar was still a huge problem. Electing Hery Rajaonarimampianina brought fresh hope to the people of Madagascar. However, the National Assembly voted to impeach him after just 18 months of his presidency because they did not feel that he was following through with his campaign promises. Ultimately, they were unsuccessful, but the political situation remains unbalanced. Even though Madagascar has rich soil for crops and a wide variety of wildlife, it has been damaged by years of political turmoil, so poverty remains an ongoing issue.

Political and Economic Instability

If political stability can be restored, it could mean great things for Madagascar. John Stremlau, the vice president of peace programs at the Carter Center in the United States said after the 2013 election, “It has great resources, it has great promise, but it has been hurt by the sanctions that have been in place now for five years. The per capita income is very low, down to less than a dollar a day for 90 percent  of the people, so that this is a new beginning, an opportunity, but the hard work of building a democratic process has only just begun.”

The best way for Madagascar to reduce poverty is by utilizing economic growth. Multiple cities were hit by harsh weather in 2017, which affected agriculture in the areas. Rice crops, a popular trade food and export item, were ruined. The production of rice fell while the price of it increased. While working on repairing the damage from lost crops, the country has increased economically in other ways.

Besides rice, items like cloves, vanilla, cocoa beans and essential oils have flourished, increasing the performance of goods exported to other countries. Economic growth has increased from 4.2 percent to 5.0 percent from 2017 to 2018. With this growth, the country is more likely to achieve its goal of reducing the number of people living below the poverty line by the year 2020. The next step is to provide financial inclusion to those without access to financial services to further ensure the rise out of poverty.

Poverty and Malnutrition

Food poverty affects the children of Madagascar much more than the adults of the country. More than half of Madagascar’s children are chronically malnourished, creating an effect called “stunting”. They are half the size they should be, and some children will not even make it to secondary school, let alone adulthood. Malnutrition damages the body and mind, sometimes irreversibly.

Malnutrition is an increasing concern for parents. “They are seven, they should be much bigger,” says Rasoanandranson, a mother of five children. Her boys at eight years of age resemble five-year-old children. Families grow small quantities of crops rich in nutrients like sweet potato, avocado and maize, but the harvest only lasts two to three months tops. Unfortunately, mothers like Rasoanandranson are eventually forced to sell their food for other much-needed household items, hygiene items an school supplies.

There is still hope for these families and in the near future. In May 2017, the country set out to achieve their goal of reducing malnutrition from 47 percent to 38 percent by 2021. The goal can be achieved by building more nutrition centers and recruiting more volunteers to educate villages on proper nutrition. There is another player to this game that will help fight malnutrition, and that’s clean water and sanitation services.

Hygiene and Sanitation

Poverty in Madagascar has affected the water and sanitation systems as well. More than half of the people in Madagascar do not have sanitation systems or access to clean drinking water. There seems to be plenty of water in the capital city of Antananarivo and other nearby cities, but the water is severely contaminated. Trash lines the edges of rivers and streams, and heavy rains wash away street debris into the water supplies. Waste from households without proper sanitation systems also gets washed away into the water supply.

On top of contaminated water, the piping systems that were previously installed are defective and leak at least 40 percent of clean water. With the population rising, conditions will only worsen; however, volunteers are working improve the piping systems and to educate people about safe water practices and sanitation. They have even started facilities to wash clothing to prevent people from further polluting the river by washing their clothes in it.

Programs like USAID, WaterAid and WASH are trying to improve conditions by first educating the community about food security and environmental programs. Secondly, they plan to improve local, community-based governance of water and sanitation resources. Thirdly, they will roll out a program called Triggering Health Seeking Behavior Change to promote good hygiene at the household levels. The final process is access to credit for the people to microfinance products for clean water and sanitation systems. With all the issues from malnutrition and contaminated water, how is Madagascar’s healthcare?

The Healthcare System in Madagascar

In the capital city Antananarivo, there are public and private hospitals that provide basic medical treatments and small operations. However, for more complex surgeries, patients are transferred to a hospital in South Africa. Although Medical services are actually free to the community, people who can afford it are advised to take out private, international health insurance for situations involving being transferred to a larger hospital for more extensive surgeries.

The most common diseases in Madagascar are malaria, leprosy and tuberculosis. The healthcare system is working to combat these diseases and, going back to the lack of clean water, it is strongly advised that people boil tap water before drinking or using it to cook. Though most of the hospitals are in cities and towns, Christian missionaries run hospitals in rural areas in case some people can not make it to town, but they cannot reach all areas.

Nonprofit organizations and volunteers are currently working to improve access to proper education about nutrition, sanitation and financial stability. Madagascar is on its way to becoming a better country for its people. Hopefully, the political situation will improve, and the government will begin doing its part to end poverty in Madagascar.

– Kayla Cammarota

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