The situation in Madagascar remains unstable and unresolved, if relatively calm. The resulting climate of ongoing uncertainty is exacerbating an already fragile economy, which has been suffering from the impact of the global economic situation, against a background of chronic poverty.
In the drought-affected south of the country, intermittent rain during the months of April and May has enabled planting of counter-season crops in certain areas. However, due to the patchwork of micro-climates which characterizes this region, the quality of the harvest varies from one municipality to the next: whereas sorghum may be thriving in one area, a mere 10 kms away the crop is withering due to a lack of rainfall, while 10kms in another direction, the crop is infested with pests due to excessive rainfall.
This makes acurate crop assessments all the more important, in particular with the up-coming lean season, which begins in September and lasts through December/January. Since disruptions in government services as a result of the political situation have impeded regular and reliable data collection, WFP and FAO will be undertaking a joint crop and food security assessment in order to ascertain production levels, with a view to responding to food security needs as from September.
According to the latest predictions from the 'Système d'Alerte Précoce' (SAP), an estimated 44 communes (600,000 people) will likely be classified as 'food insecure', compared to the 31 previously identified in December 2008 (381,000 people) in the regions of Anosy, Androy and Atsimo Andrefana.
The situation in urban areas remains hard to pin down in terms of increased vulnerability linked to the political crisis. The first results from a multi-cluster rapid assessment mechanism (McRAM) carried out at the end of May indicate that overall, the food security situation has remained largely unchanged compared to November 2008(1). However, a more detailed analysis of data reveals that the situation of those households originally at less risk has deteriorated - thereby indicating greater vulnerability to increased food prices, loss of employment and reduced income levels in traditionally less vulnerable households.
The Malagasy culture relies on extended family support and 'making do' in hard times. The true picture of increasing vulnerability may therefore be hidden from view. This underlines the need for systematic and ongoing tracking of the situation. The next McRAM survey is scheduled to take place in July.
According to the latest World Bank update(2), the Malagasy economy is headed towards a severe recession. At the end of April 2009, government spending was about 1/3 lower than one year ago, thereby impacting negatively on GDP growth. The public sector has been the traditional driver of growth over the past few years. Fiscal adjustments have been described as 'brutal': although salaries and debt services continue to be paid for the time being, all other expenses have been stopped.
There is a strong presumption that the slowdown in real activities observed during the first three months of 2009 has intensified. The overall slowdown in private activities is confirmed by lower electricity consumption, down by 40% for the industry sector and 16% for households, and by the decline in credit to the private sector.
Quarterly figures of international trade reveal that the decline in main export products (textile, shrimp and vanilla) exceeded 50% and 40% respectively in volume and value terms during the 1st quarter of 2009 compared to the same period in 2008(3).
Looking ahead, concerns remain that increasing losses in the private sector, and disruptions in social and government services could seriously exacerbate an already fragile situation. This trend is expected to continue until the current uncertainty is resolved.
Humanitarian situation - UN and partners response
Humanitarian partners working within the Sectoral Groups continue to respond to urgent needs in the drought-affected south of the country, and to closely monitor the situation in urban areas (primarily the capital, Antananarivo).
UN agencies have been assessing the impact of the political situation on basic social services. In the health sector, the Ministry of Health is experiencing difficulties in transporting vaccines to the regions due to lack of funds for fuel/transportation costs(4). There is therefore a high risk of rupture of cold chain functioning at sub-national level. A shortage of delivery kits in health centers has also been noted.
UN partners are working on defining human security strategies, based on an in-depth analysis of the impact of the crisis on key sectors, and aimed at ensuring that immediate humanitarian needs are met, and that the population will have continued access to basic services so as to prevent a slide into further vulnerability. A Strategy Workshop will be held on 16-17 June with UN Agencies.
From 5-15 May, a mission from the regional office of OHCHR met with UN/NGO/civil society and government actors to evaluate the human rights situation in Madagascar, conduct a needs assessment, and submit recommendations to head office for potential programming in the country. Decisions on recommendations made are pending.
The Flash Appeal is now close to 23% funded. The majority of these funds are being used to meet emergency nutritional and food security needs in the south, supported by coordinated water and health interventions. Funding is still being sought to support monitoring of vulnerability in urban areas and respond to critical needs identified, as well as for broader action to cover on-going food security, health and water supply needs in the south. All humanitarian partners including donors and recipient agencies are encouraged to inform FTS of cash and in-kind contributions by sending an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org