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Flash appeal: Child survival, development and protection at stake in Madagascar

© UNICEF/2009/Pirozzi
In Antananarivo, Madagascar, public health is at risk due to suspended sanitation services, leading to the threat of epidemics.

ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar, 7 April 2009 – A complex web of cyclones, drought and political instability is seriously threatening the survival, development and protection of children in Madagascar.

Among the issues facing children are the following:

  • Close to a quarter of a million of children under the age of five live in three food-insecure regions in the south of the country and are at risk of malnutrition
  • An estimated 10,000 children had their education interrupted by the two cyclones, Cyclone Eric and Cyclone Fenele, that hit the southwest and northeast coasts in January
  • Another 116,000 children around the country were out of school at certain times during the recent political instability here
  • Interruption of water and sanitation services in main towns puts up to 100,000 children at risk of water-borne diseases
  • And the recent unusual rates of violence have caused a high level of stress among children and youths who have almost no access to the required psychosocial support.

“Given the already high levels of chronic vulnerability among households in the country, we are clearly concerned about the multiple consequences of the various crises on children,” said UNICEF Representative in Madagascar Bruno Maes.

“It is crucial that we succeed in avoiding children dying as a result of malnutrition in the south while reinforcing protection initiatives to address the impact of violence experienced by children due to the political unrest,” he added.

Multiple issues affecting children

Recent political instability has had a negative impact on the protective environment for children. The unusual rates of violence recorded in Antananarivo and other main towns during the unrest generated high levels of stress and anxiety among children.

© UNICEF/2009/Pirozzi
Homeless families live in the centre of the Antananarivo. Some of them have been there for five years.

Over 30 children have been reported missing since violence started. Some ran away from increased domestic violence.

The situation is seriously affecting children’s education, through school closures, high absenteeism and direct threats to schools and students. Even in schools not directly affected by violence, there have been reports of widespread fear among students, parents and teachers, resulting in children frequently missing classes.

In addition, the economic effects of Madagascar’s crises are expected to result in the increased withdrawal of children from schooling.

Disruption of water and sanitation

Public health is also a grave concern. An estimated 700,000 people – 100,000 of them children under five – have been affected by the disruption of water and sanitation services. Since the start of the political instability, the municipality waste collection system of Antananarivo and other urban areas has been operating at a greatly reduced capacity, resulting in a risk of epidemics.

Poor rainfall in the south is forcing the population to use stagnant, untreated water for their consumption, and the incidence of water-borne diseases has increased in drought-affected regions. At least 12,000 families are in urgent need of safe water.

Signs of the negative economic impact of the crisis on temporary job opportunities for the most vulnerable has reduced many families’ capacity to purchase safe drinking water or food for their children. As a result, children already living on the brink are increasingly vulnerable.

UNICEF now believes that up to 240,000 children living in food-insecure regions are at risk of malnutrition and is conducting surveys to identify the magnitude of the problem.

Appeal for intensified response

The UN system, including UNICEF, and non-governmental partners are launching a flash appeal for $35.7 million to cover the most urgent needs of children.

“UNICEF and partners need to be able to combat child rights violations on several fronts at the same time, and urgent humanitarian funding is needed to expand our emergency efforts,” Mr. Maes explained.

UNICEF is requesting almost $16.9 million to reinforce and extend its activities in order to reach the most vulnerable children with urgent assistance, including:

  • Identification and treatment of both severe and moderate malnutrition in the south
  • Provision of safe water and water supplies to almost 100 health centres in the south and 12,000 households
  • Emergency support for the rehabilitation of a limited number of schools, without which some 3,000 children will miss an entire school year in cyclone-affected areas
  • Psychosocial support, to be provided in schools and to out-of-school children affected by the recent violence
  • Aid to strengthen community networks in order to protect vulnerable children and mitigate further abuses against them.



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