Madagascar is set to hold elections Friday, trying to shrug off the effects of a 2009 coup that plunged millions of people into poverty and hunger due to subsequent African and Western sanctions and withdrawal of budget aid. The efforts of donors to punish the country’s politicians have backfired and hurt its most vulnerable people, especially children, U.N. humanitarian agencies said Monday. Madagascar, a country that relied on donors to cover about 40% of its budget in 2008, is a study on what goes wrong after a coup: Tourism evaporates, investors go elsewhere and international donors drastically cut their support. “Before the coup, Madagascar was seen as a donor darling. Things were coming up. They were going to reach their Millennium Development Goals,” said UNICEF’s Madagascar representative, Steven Lauwerier, who was in Johannesburg on Monday.
He was referring to a list of eight development targets for 2015 set by the U.N. in 2000, including eradication of poverty and hunger, universal primary education and improved maternal and infant mortality rates. Now Madagascar’s indicators are heading in the wrong direction, he said.
According to the U.N., 50% of its children are chronically malnourished, making the country the sixth worst in the world on that measure. The percentage of children living in poverty (in households living on less than $2 a day) rose from 72% five years ago to 84% now.
In the same period, Madagascar also slumped 11 points on the Mo Ibrahim good governance index, which measures good governance in Africa. It ranks 151st of 187 countries in the U.N. development index, which looks at key development indicators affecting human welfare.
“It’s a bit of a silent crisis. In the last five years … in Madagascar things have actually got worse or stagnated,” Lauwerier said.