Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in Madagascar
Madagascar, an island enriched with a culture of religious diversity, castes and classes and growing tourism, is the fifth poorest country in the world. In fact, the pandemic has raised Madagascar’s poverty rates from 75% to 78%. The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Madagascar has been significant but the country is working to slow the spread of the virus.

Before the Pandemic

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Madagascar was seeing an economic boom with a growth rate of 4.9% in 2019, its highest level in over a decade. The country made such economic progress largely due to an increase in exportation activity. Despite significant improvements, barriers such as inadequate infrastructure, lack of competition in key sectors, poor governance and slow progress in human capital development continued to restrict further economic growth in Madagascar.

During the Pandemic

The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Madagascar has restricted global trade and hindered Madagascar’s major industries. This sent the country into a sudden, spiraling recession. Madagascar’s economic progress has faced a sharp decline due to the pandemic. The country is dealing with a GDP deflation of -4.2%. This economic loss is due to unemployment and other poverty-causing factors such as loss in trade and tourism revenue.

From 2017-2019, Madagascar’s unemployment rate was 1.7%. This rate increased to 1.9% in 2020. Madagascar’s current total number of COVID-19 cases is 42,216, far fewer than many other African countries. However, the CDC classifies Madagascar as having very high levels of COVID-19 cases, as cases have been rising recently.

A deeper look at pandemic caused factors that are affecting Madagascar’s economy and increasing poverty rates:

  • Drop-in Exports – Madagascar’s strongly developing mining industry contributed to its economic growth. The country produces about 6% of the world’s nickel, cobalt and ilmenite. Nickel prices have reached an all-time low, causing Madagascar to close its plant and drop exports. The Chinese and U.S. markets, which in sum take in 25% of Malagasy exports, closed during the pandemic as well, limiting Madagascar’s export opportunities. The closure of Chinese and U.S. markets limited Madagascar’s export opportunities.
  • Tourism – More than 45,000 Madagascar residents work directly in the tourism industry. Since the start of 2020, Madagascar has lost about half a billion dollars in tourism revenue. As a result, those who worked in the industry are facing the prospect of poverty. “Overnight, we pretty much had zero tourists,” says Thierry Rajaona, chairman of the Madagascar Business Group, in an interview with Africanews.
  • Containment Measures – Enforced governmental restrictions on movement keep those susceptible to poverty in place. This prevents people from seeking jobs or accessing markets. These precautionary governmental regulations help keep cases under control but contribute to further food and housing insecurities and increased poverty.

The Future

Although the impact of COVID-19 on global poverty in Madagascar continues to be a prevalent problem, getting Madagascar back to a state of economic growth is a reachable goal for a lot of groups. A group of private Magalyze companies holds optimistic goals for the future, expecting Madagascar to achieve a 5% growth rate through the collaboration of public authorities. Rebuilding Madagascar’s economy requires political governmental action to mobilize domestic resources and stimulate Madagascar’s struggling but essential industries.

The World Bank estimates that Madagascar will gradually recover by 2023. During this recovery time, mass testing and contact tracing should help reduce the effects of the pandemic. President Andry Rajoelina made a statement in March 2021 against mass vaccinations, calling for an “herbal remedy.” The World Bank says that a vaccination-centered campaign is necessary to ensure that the country does not experience a resurgence of cases. Vaccination is among the most effective ways to help developing countries recover from the economic, health and social impacts of COVID-19.

As of June 2021, 0.68% of Madagascar’s population has received at least one dose of the vaccine. In early May 2021, Madagascar received its first batch of 250,000 COVID-19 vaccinations because of the global COVAX initiative, which plans to cover vaccines for 20% of Madagascar’s population.


UNICEF has been working to combat the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Madagascar through holistic efforts. In May 2021, UNICEF received 200 new oxygen concentrators which Madagascar used to help those suffering from COVID. These oxygen concentrators will help COVID-19 healthcare as healthcare facilities in Madagascar often run out of medical supplies. Additionally, UNICEF is working to rebuild Madagascar through advocacy that addresses malnutrition, healthcare access and poverty. These sectors of advocacy are interconnected as 60% of those living in Madagascar live over 5 km from a healthcare facility and often lack reliable transportation and roads to reach such facilities. Access disproportionately affects those living in poverty and has links to gender and literacy inequalities as well.

The Ministry of Public Health is working with UNICEF to promote public engagement and communication in relation to COVID-19 risks. This includes updating databases and preparation plans to deal with further cases and the next winter period.

Founded in 1999, SEED Madagascar (Sustainable, Environment, Education & Development) is a charity dedicated to addressing Madagascar’s distinct needs through sustainable development. SEED has already reached over 2,380 community members through COVID-19 informational sessions and 16,533 people on proper handwashing demonstrations. The organization has been working to train health workers and school teachers on COVID-19 prevention.

Looking Ahead

Prior to COVID-19, poverty rates in Madagascar were dropping as its economy grew. This growth stunted once the pandemic hit Madagascar’s communities. As the GDP fell, more and more civilians stumbled into poverty because of job loss and health expenses. Various organizations have been partnering with Madagascar’s government to lift people out of poverty and help the country reduce COVID-19 outbreaks and deaths. As trade networks strengthen and the tourism industry picks up again, leaders are hopeful of returning growth to Madagascar’s economy and further reduction of poverty rates.

– Sarah Eichstadt
Photo: Flickr

Private Education in India

Despite an impressive adult literacy rate of 71.2 percent, the public education system in India is struggling, with half of primary-aged students unable to read a basic text and two thirds unable to do basic math. Consequently, over the last eight years there has been a definite decrease in public school enrollment in India, with a 10 percent drop in primary school enrollment from 2008 to 2014. Though 62 percent of primary-school students do still attend public school, the overall decrease in attendance is attributed to a 35 percent rise in private education in India, as parents seek better educational opportunities for their children.

In 2016, over 58 percent of Indians cited a preference for private education due to a “better environment of learning.” Additionally, 22.4 percent of rural respondents and 18.6 percent of urban respondents also asserted that the quality of public education is not satisfactory. Such is why some 300,000 low-cost private schools have sprang up across the country in an effort to address the desire for better education and capitalize on the market for it.

Yet, these low-cost private schools lack a universal curriculum and set of standards, causing inconsistencies in education. This results in varying levels of opportunity for further education due to irregularities in what has previously been learned. In an effort to address this issue of non-existent universality, an organization called Standard of Excellence in Education and Development (SEED) has arisen.

SEED addresses these inconsistencies by partnering with underperforming low-cost private schools to provide standardized curriculums and teacher training to improve the overall education offered. Its focus is on technology-driven curriculum, with an emphasis on social development, through the implementation of school-based extracurricular activities. Further, SEED’s teacher trainings aim to both support and advance teachers by providing lesson plans and information on innovative teaching methods.

All of these initiatives work to improve the quality of education within these low-cost private schools, with the hopes of eventually creating a system of standardization for them as well. Though public education is overtly struggling, private education in India is both on the rise and improving along the way. With 6.4 million students within its borders, the work of organizations like SEED could not be more crucial to shaping the future of the nation and our world.

Kailee Nardi

Photo: Google

fighting poverty
Many university presidents and college students alike have taken it upon themselves to help fight for those less fortunate than them. From creating chapters of organizations like ONE and conducting research for the benefit of medicine, universities have played a major role in shifting the scale of poverty over the years.

The Economist once said Africa was the “hopeless continent,” but after years of innovation, the same magazine has deemed it “Africa Rising.” One way colleges and universities play a significant role in this is by partnering with global nonprofits.

Universities originally began creating partnerships to support low-income students and help them carve a secure pathway to college, but in doing so, they also managed to foster relationships with these nonprofits that have blossomed into much bigger roles.

Much of the research conducted by students and professors has also contributed to aiding those living in poverty. Many universities, such as Stanford, UC Davis and Columbia University have designated research departments for research on global poverty.

Columbia University has The Earth Institute, which focuses on a magnitude of projects ranging from agricultural sustainability and global poverty mapping to economic growth in underserved communities.

Their Millennium Villages Project, led by The Earth Institute, United Nations Development Programme and the Millennium Promise, a charity dedicated to fighting poverty, focuses their efforts on reducing global poverty by helping rural African villages become more economically and agriculturally sustainable.

The Center for Poverty Research at the University of California at Davis dedicates their time to training scholars to combat poverty. Their research net encompasses topics like health, education and the intergenerational transmission of poverty, which studies how poverty can be transferred from parent to child.

The Center is one of three poverty research facilities focused on using this research net to decrease poverty. The other two centers are comprised of the University of Kentucky and the University of Wisconsin.

In February of 2014, Stanford launched a new research facility focused on ending global poverty called the Stanford Institute for Innovation in Developing Economies (SEED).

SEED’s initiatives focus on using entrepreneurship, economics and business innovation to help create new markets and job opportunities in underdeveloped communities to help them rise out of poverty.

The program grants researchers at Stanford sums of money to conduct interdisciplinary research focused on poverty. SEED is housed in Stanford’s graduate school of business and has so far dedicated over ten million dollars to its research.

Lastly, universities contribute to fighting poverty through action-based organizations that use their efforts to create awareness, raise money and advocate for the alleviation of poverty.

For example, universities around the world continue to use their resources to end poverty, and with their efforts can help Africa go from “Africa Rising” to an economically and agriculturally stable continent.

Julia Hettiger

Sources: University of California, Davis, Columbia University, Stanford University

Photo: Flickr