That fact that Madagascar is one of the most beautiful nations on the Earth belies the fact that it is beset by grinding poverty positioned at 164 out of 189 countries and territories in 2019 when ranked on the life expectancy, literacy, access to knowledge and living standards of a country. That's a decrease of about 10.4% between 1990 and 2019 and a drop of thrirteen places since 2013. There are many reasons for this from political instability following a military coup in 2009 which led to swinging cuts in international aid of between 50-70% across all aspects of Madagascar life, droughts and now, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic which has decimated the tourist industry. These factors have combined to leave an already impoverished country on the precipice, but, as ever, it's those already in poverty in Madagascar who are affected most, not the ruling elite.
Although child labour is illegal in Madagascar, biting poverty makes it a survival necessity. Many of these children work as labourers in the fishing industry, as domestic servants or in stone quarries. One seven year old boy stated "I have to crush two big bags of gravel per day to make my mother happy." Approximately 5.7 million children, about half of the population under 18, participate in some form of manual labour with one in four of them performing work that is potentially damaging to their health and, of course, this work replaces a much needed education. Many children are abandoned by their families and travel to the country's capital Antananarivo where they end up vulnerable to exploitation and often survive on scraps of rice and discarded food (for more about these children, check out the article below.)75% of the population of Madagascar lives on less than $1.90 per day. This means that three-quarters of the 26.97 million (2019) inhabitants of Madagascar live beneath the international poverty line as defined by the World Bank. Poverty rises to 85% in rural areas, which is home to 80% of the country's population.
Most families rely on subsistence farming from a plot barely larger than 1.3 hectares and such farm land is becomingly increasingly stretched as the population rises, climate change leads to more cyclones and droughts take a grip. More than 80% of those under 18 in Madagascar live in extreme poverty with UNICEF noting that chronic malnutrition affects almost half of children under five, with stunted growth being a major concern. Since the political crisis unfolded, with periods of remission, a quarter of all health care centres have had to close their doors due to a lack of funding and women are abandoning their newborns in hospital because they simply cannot afford to feed them.
Poverty in Madagascar is also effected by Malagasy culture where there are rigid social structures based on age, gender and ethnicity leaving the country's richest 10% in control of over a third of the country's wealth. A poor infrastructure contributes to the problem. There are more than 30,000 miles of roads in the country but only about 11% are paved making them impassable during the nation's rainy season and the lack of poor or non-existant santitaion, especially in rural areas, leads to high instances of child mortality, chronic illness and subsequent inability to work. The video documentary (below), although a bit dated, explores poverty issues in Madagascar.
Madagascar Poverty: Volunteer in Madagascar
Madagascar Poverty: Street Children
Madagascar Poverty: Child Sponsor Madagascar
Madagascar Poverty: Madagascar Country Profile
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