Madagascar is one of the poorest countries on the planet and conditions there for children are harsh. Half of all children under the age of five will die of diarrhoea, those who do survive will suffer from frequent bouts of illness even at school, where only 18% of Madagascar's schools have access to drinking water and only 30% have toilets. 36.8% of children under the age of 5yrs in Madagascar are underweight and 51 children out of every 1000 die at birth (compared to 4.56 in the UK.) Most children who live in Madagascar help their families raise rice and herd cattle, mainly ox-like mammals, and they measure their wealth by how many cattle they have.
This has hit children hard with many of the island's 910,000 orphans (nearly 10% of its entire child population) making their way onto the streets of cities such as Antananarivo in search of survival. Even those with families have now been forced to abandon school to work to find work. As one youngster put it "What’s the point of doing nothing in school all day when there’s nothing to eat at the end of it?" There are also reports of parents abandoning their children when they can no longer support them, including infant children just left by themselves on the streets.
Similarly there are reports of mothers abandoning their new born babies in hospital because they can't afford to feed them nor afford any future medical care with, for example, treatment of childhood tuberculosis costing more than a month's factory wage. As noted above, exact figures are not known, but the number of street children in Madagascar certainly runs into thousands with some of these children even being born on the streets. Its a testament to the size of the problem that the international charity Medicine Sans Frontieres recently left the capital city of Antananarivo saying that the problem is simply too large for them and responsibility must lie with the Madagascan government.
Of the 9,571,000 children in Madagascar, there are 910,000 orphans, just under 10%,and 11,000 of these have been orphaned by AIDS (although some sources put this higher at 30,000) with five children being born every day in Madagascar with the virus. Overall 43% of the country's population is under the age of 15yrs old (compared with 17% for the UK) and many grow up without adult care having to fend for themselves or being brought up in child-headed families. As discussed elsewhere, many children in Madagascar do not attend school, and for those who do there are high drop out rates with only 60% completing primary education (6 - 11 yrs).
These figures are somewhat distorted by the fact that around one third of all children in Madagascar had no access to primary education in the first place and those who do often find their already run down schools badly damaged by the storms that hit the island every year making them unusable for long periods, or closed due to a lack of teaching staff.
The reality is that many Madagascar children are dependent on outside aid to have any viable future however, apart from the work of some NGOs operating in the country, that aid has mainly been suspended. The video, below, explores the situation of children in Madagascar where many are now suffering from malnutrition not least because of erratic rainfall patterns and the suspension of aid from the EU and other places following the political crisis of 2009. It shows how organisations such as UNICEF are reaching out to children and families in Madagascar to assist. The current crisis had led to an increase in the numbers of street children in places like the Madagascan capital of Antananarivo, already home to thousands of children begging on the streets. One eleven year old even described the lifestyle as even being lucky: "Sometimes the street vendors let us sleep by their fires. The grannies who sleep on the pavements know us; they know we have our own money and we won't steal from them, so they let us stay."
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