Since 2012, the plight of children in Madagascar has not improved and is in many cases getting worse, United Nations (UN) humanitarians said recently, even as torrential rains two weeks ago affected 120,000 people, cutting off roads, destroying 174 schools and forcibly displacing 16,000, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported.
Meanwhile, the World Food Programme (WFP) warned that the current lean season has left more than 700,000 people without enough to eat and although it is helping to feed some 230,000 hungry people, the UN agency spelled out that 11.4 million in the country are undernourished.
UNICEF Madagascar Deputy Representative Jean Benoit Manhes pointed out that the recent floods are just one of the many challenges faced by Madagascar’s children “all year long.”
These include natural disasters, drought, and pandemics — challenges that have been aggravated by climate change and require far more international attention and support.
“Because of poor access to sanitation, 40 percent of the population still practice open defecation,” Manhes explained. “As a consequence, 93 percent — I repeat, 93 percent — of drinking water in rural areas is contaminated by E. coli.”
This, coupled with widespread poverty and a generally poor diet, leads to “one of the highest chronic malnutrition rates in the world; 42 percent of children being stunted or as we say, chronically malnourished,” he elaborated.
In an appeal for long-term assistance to Madagascar, UNICEF highlighted that two in five girls get married before they are 18 and more than one child in three work in dangerous conditions, such as in the mica mining industry.
The agency also warned that less than one in three children has received the vaccines they need, leading to “annual pandemics” of polio and plague.