|© UNICEF Madagascar/2009/Pirozzi|
|Children in Madagascar are confronted with violence born of political instability and mounting food insecurity.|
ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar, 3 April 2009 – On a plot close to the small main road of one of the poorer neighborhoods in Madagascar’s capital, Antananarivo, children play in a child-friendly space set up by UNICEF.
The centre was initially established as a temporary response to last year’s flooding, which displaced 20,000 people in the capital. As the centre grew in popularity, it gained a secondary role as a place in which to identify children living in situations of violence, abuse and truancy.
One year later, in January 2009, the centre served as a valuable shelter during political unrest that shook the capital.
“Parents are afraid of leaving their children and fear for their safety. This has also been noticed in schools, as a direct result of schools and pupils having been threatened during the unrest,” said UNICEF Representative in Madagascar Bruno Maes. “Even in schools not directly affected by violence, there were reports of widespread fear among students, parents and teachers resulting in children frequently missing out on education.”
Threats to children
Although there is still a line of parents in front of the playground waiting to drop of their children for the day, the number of children in the centre has decreased since the recent political instability. According to volunteers at the site, some parents are declining to bring their children because it has become difficult to feed them more than once a day, and they do not want their children to come hungry to the centre.
One woman who is bringing her four-year-old grandson to the centre says that before the current political crisis she sold spices and vanilla at the market, but that she can no longer find goods to sell. She lives with her four grandchildren in a one-room wooden shack covered with plastic sheeting. The children’s mother died four years ago and their father two years later.
The grandmother used to earn 400 Ariary (around 20 cents) per day, which could provide the family of five with four cups of rice per. Today, she relies on her oldest grand daughter to look for temporary jobs such as carrying water or washing clothes.
“Before, we could get some small jobs to earn money, but now it is just not happening,” the granddaughter said, looking at her brothers. “My dream is to find a job so that I can help my brothers.”
A direct impact
The dearth of temporary job opportunities has a direct impact on overall family cash income. Coupled with high food prices, the situation has left many families unable to purchase safe drinking water and food for their children. Children already living on the brink are increasingly vulnerable. Meanwhile, there is a growing need for psychosocial support.
UNICEF and partners strive to mitigate the impact on children and are preparing psychosocial support in schools, hospitals and vulnerable neighbourhoods. Training of social workers have been conducted to support family tracing and reunification activities in addition to provide psychosocial support.
UNICEF continues to support child-friendly spaces and works with partners to gather information and respond to child rights violations. UNICEF also supports garbage collection for improved sanitation, provides basic health related supply and follows the nutritional status of children.