The socio-economic situation in Madagascar deteriorated in 2020 following several natural disasters, including flooding in the north, prolonged drought in the south with insecurity not yet under control, and disease outbreaks, such as dengue fever, malaria, measles, and coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), which has spread across the country.
Decreased access to and demand for social services due to COVID-19 has significantly affected households, communities, and systems, and exacerbated the vulnerability of children.
In 2021, UNICEF will reach children in need through a holistic, multi-pronged approach incorporating nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), health and child protection to protect children's rights and well-being. The response will focus on continuing the provision of social services and mitigating the impacts of COVID-19.
UNICEF is requesting US$34.2 million to reach 2.6 million people, including 1.3 million children, affected by epidemics, cyclones, floods, and drought, with life-saving assistance in 2021.
HUMANITARIAN SITUATION AND NEEDS
In 2020, three emergencies hit Madagascar: flooding in the north, prolonged drought in the south and disease outbreaks, including COVID-19, in all 22 regions. As of 2021 June, Madagascar had over 41,443 confirmed cases of COVID-19. The large rainfall deficit in southern Madagascar in 2019/2020 and 2020/2021 has left over 1,300,000 food insecure people in need of social protection. An estimated 357,000 children under 5 years will suffer from acute malnutrition by the end of 2021, and among these, 120,000 will be severely malnourished.
Water prices have increased in Madagascar, and a deterioration in the quality of water is anticipated due to low aquifer reserves, which will challenge access to safe drinking water and sanitation and hygiene services for most vulnerable people. Urban populations are also at risk due to potential shortages of potable water.
While Madagascar is prone to epidemics such as COVID-19, plague and malaria, the health system struggles to ensure continuity of services during crises. In addition, the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 have increased the number of people living in poverty by 2.3 million. This increase in poverty in the country is associated with the 1.3 million people affected by acute food insecurity in the South – and significantly increased social protection needs.
Schools had opened after the 2020 COVID-19-related closures, but in 2021 extended Easter holiday until early June 2021. Disrupted learning usually has an impact on children who are out of school, a rate that was already 24 per cent for primary level and 73 percent for secondary. In the Southern region this exacerbates a continued crisis related to the drought. In Anosy, for example, 640 household were identified by WFP as displaced. The multiple intersecting crises have put increased pressure on children already out of school and resulted in greater numbers of children who are being denied an opportunity to learn.
Deprived of protective school environments, and given the increased stress and economic pressure in families, children are at heightened risk of experiencing violence and exploitation, including child marriage and child labor. COVID-19 has exacerbated the chronic weaknesses of systems for monitoring, preventing and responding to violence against children and gender-based violence; and data on gender-based violence and sexual exploitation and abuse on vulnerable groups and in remote areas are limited. In the first semester of 2020, the number of children referred to protection services decreased by 50 per cent or more compared with 2019, highlighting the need for responsive child protection services and stronger monitoring.