Madagascar, the Island of “Mora Mora’, Faces More
And it”s not over yet. A ravishing island nation of intense contrasts – immense poverty embedded in luscious landscapes, people who are gentle and smiling, in spite of the deadly cyclones they face year after year – Madagascar is now embroiled in a new disaster, but this time it's man made. And largely due to poverty.
In late January, Andry Rajoelina, the former mayor of the country's capitol called
for the removal of President Marc Ravalomanana, proclaiming himself as
the country”s new leader. Tapping into a nation where more than three quarters of its inhabitants live on less than two dollars a day, opposition rallies have shook the country, and you don”t have to be standing in the "red zones"
to feel it.
Given the speed of these developments, I anxiously look forward to Skype updates by my friends at CARE Madagascar. This morning, Laureat Mandresilahatra, CARE's bureau chief in Manantenina, shared the following:
"In just two weeks, there has been enormous inflation. Even in Fort Dauphin, the inflation has been more than 100 percent. A kilo of tomatoes normally costing 1000-15000 ariary now costs 4000 ariary. And this is in a city which has already experienced tremendous inflation since the arrival of mining companies. In more remote regions like Amboasary, we are seeing people sell their zebus, their large cooking pots. When you see villagers sell their prized possessions while famine looks them in the face – that really says something."
Amboasary, itself now classed a "red zone" due to bandits prevailing over the sisal-framed region, not only looks like the wild west, but feels like it, too, with droughts so severe that women must choose between cooking or bathing.
Laureat continues, "Even areas like Diego Suarez are being affected. A phone store there was broken into this morning. And things will not be better by tomorrow. The political crisis in Madagascar has touched the country in a global way. Tourism is finished. All who were scheduled to come to Madagascar on holiday have canceled their flights."
The Malagasy like to say "Mora, mora", which means "slowly, slowly". Unfortunately, the current power struggle and resultant civil unrest haven”t unfolded at such speed. Items manufactured by companies owned by the President – like soap, oil and milk – are now in short supply, the stores ransacked by gangs. The defense minister has quit. Investors are pulling out. Thousands of people lost their jobs and more than 100 died from the protests. I have read that Malagasy are in tune with the opposition leader's frustrations, but not with his approach. Civil unrest is not new to Madagascar, but it makes me sad to see such a friendly, gentle nation – where women can safely travel alone – in such a state now. And even sadder to think of the increased pressures of exorbitant inflation and supply shortages that its already very poor people now face. "Madagascar has made great progress, but now we must start from point zero," Laureat said with a sigh.
CARE opened operations in Madagascar in 1992, at a time
when the country was experiencing a severe economic crisis. Currently,
CARE's rural development programs in Madagascar focus on sustainable natural
resource management and food and household livelihood security. We also implement urban programs that focus on health, environmental
sanitation, social and personal empowerment, and income generation.
CARE promotes safe water systems and safe practices for disinfecting
and storing household water. We are also involved in risk and disaster
management, including the development of disaster information systems,
vulnerability assessment, risk mapping, early warning systems, and the
execution of disaster preparation, planning and mitigation projects.