Contract signed. After months of not knowing, we now have something known, something certain. We are going to Madagascar. Google search initiated.
My first search results came back with black death and locusts. That’s probably not what most tourists find when they Google their destination, but then I suppose most people don’t normally research the health problems or infrastructure of a country before swimming in their pools and drinking their piña coladas. The Black Death killed an estimated 25 million people in Europe during the Middle Ages. It’s now commonly believed to be something that ceases to exist; unless you are reading an old history book. But, my friends, it’s alive and well in Madagascar. In 2012, 60 people died of it! The locusts plagues are also something you may not consider when planning a holiday to Madagascar. These ugly little things are only really thought of in conjunction with domesticated reptiles or Bible stories. According to ABC news the locust plague in the capital of Madagascar was just like scenes out of Egypt. This plague devastated crops and was reported to have “threatened the livelihoods of 13 million people” (FAO in emergencies). The Guardian reports the swarm started in April of 2012 and that the country have recently called on the UN for help as they are unable to stop what was penned as a “locust war”.
As you can see, Madagascar does not quite meet the reality of what the Pixar movie has created. My brother has long critised it for its poor depictions of animals and misinformation giving for children, but I’m starting to think he might just have a point. Madagascar is not what it seems. Whilst I’m a fan of animals talking, cracking jokes and singing I’m also aware that the world (including myself) may just have the wrong idea about Madagascar. Our Managing Director says it’s the most overrated country in Africa and although I have never even been, I’m starting to see the truth in that statement.
The World Bank has estimated that 92% of Malagasy (people that come from Madagascar) live on less than $2 per day and WHO state that only 60%- 70% have access to health care. Madagascar is also a source country for human trafficking and known in certain circles for its child sex tourism. One kids charity stated that 27% of the children are considered to be in “harmful work”(Bel Avenir).
Turns out not everyone is interested in the countries beautiful scenery, exquisite wildlife and it’s abundance of unique flora.
In 2009 there was a political coup and much of the foreign aid, which was reported to have been between 40-70% of the entire country’s budget depending on what you read, ceased. In 2011 this country was reported to be the most under-aided country in the world (OECD). That’s quite a statement.
Madagascar is the 155th wealthiest/ most developed country out of 187 countries (HDI, MPI)
Benin is 165th
Republic Of Congo is 140th
The United Kingdom is 14th
The United States of America is 5th
The more I look, the more I see that Madagascar is not just the rich, luxurious or lavish holiday spot that I first presumed.
It’s somewhere that has a massive need,
somewhere that’s in the depths of poverty and needs hope and healing,
somewhere that needs a big ol’ ship full of love to drop by.
Feature picture taken from UN agriculture site, other picture from the world wide web – I normally take my own but seeing as I’m not in Madagascar that will have to wait until October.
Again the stuff I write about does not reflect Mercy Ships as an organisation. These are my thoughts.