August 26

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News from the Red Island

Hi everybody,

I’ve been in Madagascar for 8 weeks now,… so time to give you news from the Red Island.

Many of you told me “the link to your blog doesn’t work”… here I am.

I arrived in Antananarivo (called Tana), the 28th of June, for a UNICEF mission.

For the first few days, I stayed in a hotel near the office, in a commercial area, so I didn’t see a lot about the city. Then, I moved in a shared house in the center of Tana (thanks to Joanne, volunteer last year), since then I realized the level of poverty, seeing many children begging in the streets, young people towing overloaded carts,  very young pregnant girls… I’ve travelled in other emerging countries before, but here, it was beyond anything I saw.

I’m not going to give you all the statistics about this country, but in few figures: Madagascar is one of the poorest countries in the world (rank 5), 91% of the population live on less than $2 per day, and 77% on less than $ 1.25 per day. As almost 50% of the population are under 18, young people are the most affected. The country is still emerging from a prolonged political crisis (2009-2013) with a deterioration of the social services and exacerbation of household vulnerabilities to shocks; the island is indeed very exposed to the effects of climate change and so extremely vulnerable to natural disasters.

This crisis is present in everyone’s mind, lots of Malagasy people I’ve met told me about this very difficult period, and how it remains difficult for the government to find a way out. As the “transition” government in place after the “coup” in 2009 was not recognized by the international community, key donors decided to freeze their development support to Madagascar and stopped funding their programs. However, UNICEF Madagascar adopted an alternative approach to mitigate the negative impacts of the crisis on the Malagasy population, but the education and health care system had been very affected.

 The understanding of this context was a first and essential step of my mission at UNICEF, for which I’m working in the Social Policy, research and evaluation section. This team is responsible for:

  • 1) Developing a social protection framework
  • 2) Providing evidence (carry out surveys to address issues, baselines to evaluate impact of projects in the field) and budget analysis to influence policy development and promote inclusive social policies.
  • 3) Strengthen engagement with the private sector to ensure Child’s Rights and Business Principles.

My main role is to support the specialist of private sector partnership for the mission #3 above.

I have to tell you that it took me few days,… Or a couple of weeks to really understand the role of UNICEF, as it is far from my area of expertise (vaccine production supervisor and troubleshooter for 9 years). UNICEF is not an NGO, so it is more about influencing, promoting, advocating than operating on the field, like building houses and water treatment plants. It is a brand new experience for me.

I wanted new challenges, here we are !!!

Until the next time…

Dorothee