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Country Reports

Madagascar Country Report

Overview

INTRODUCTION

Foreigners planning a trip to Madagascar (population 24.24 million) should be aware of a number of potential risks in the country.

CRIME

Crime rates are consistently high around the country and have been on the rise in recent years. In the island's main cities, property and petty crimes (e.g. bag snatching, items stolen out of cars), as well as home burglaries, are the main concerns. More violent acts (e.g. armed muggings, burglaries) do occur, particularly in rural areas and on major highways. Violent crimes tend to increase after nightfall.

Uninhabited areas (e.g. national parks, beaches) can be particularly dangerous due to the presence of armed gangs which are responsible for numerous (often violent) muggings targeting tourists. Travelers may be targeted in tourist areas (bars, restaurants, etc.) due to their presumed affluence. In the capital Antananarivo, the areas with increased risk include the stairs leading up to the Rova, Independence Avenue, Analakely market, and the city-center in general, which should be avoided at night.

There has also been a rise in muggings in the city of Antsiranana (formerly Diego-Suraez), particularly on the Montagne des Français (national reserve) and the Montagne d'Ambre; at the Pinc Saint-Louise in Fort-Dauphin; in the cities of Tamatave, Majunga, along the Tsiribihina River, and the Isalo Park. Travelers are advised to avoid Batterie Beach (north of the city of Toliara [Toléar]) due to exceptionally high levels of violence.

Additionally, two humanitarian workers were found murdered in August 2016 on Sainte Marie island.

All movements by foot after 17:30 (local time) should be strictly limited throughout the territory.

Violent assaults by armed groups on major highways are also increasing. The RN7 (Antananarivo - Toliara), the RN10 (Betioky - Andranovory), and particularly the RN13 (Anbovomne - Ihosy) should be avoided.

Foreign nationals are advised to remain vigilant at all times; avoid all travel by foot during the day and never walk by night; lock your car doors and roll your car windows up. Avoid traveling through disadvantaged areas and/or far from the city center. Never resist if assaulted, as attackers may resort to violence.

Thefts of checked-in luggage are regularly reported at Antananarivo-Ivato International Airport (TNR), including locked luggage, during both departures and arrivals. Keep any valuable items in your carry-on luggage or on your person.

Security conditions are fragile in the south and southeast parts of the country where livestock theft is common (committed by "Dahalos") in rural areas. Several people have been killed during such thefts in recent months, triggering a considerable police response.

Finally, it should be noted that Islamist terrorists are present in the region. Radicalization is a potential risk in the country as the precarious social situation may prompt individuals to join militant groups.

In addition, an increase in attacks against the Catholic community has been reported in recent months.

KIDNAPPING

Kidnappings-for-ransom of foreign and dual nationals is also a concern. Cases of kidnappings have increased, especially in Antananarivo, since the beginning of 2017. In May 2017, a Franco-Indian national was abducted in the capital and released a few days later. This was the fourth kidnapping of a French national since the beginning of 2017; the Franco-Indian community has been the target of more than 90 abductions since 2010. In April 2017, a French teenager of Indian origin was abducted and eventually released in Antananarivo. The kidnapping of a foreign child, however, raises concerns for foreign visitors to the country, including business travelers and expatriates, who could be specifically targeted due to their presumed affluence.

To minimize exposure to the risk of kidnapping, travelers should vary their routes and schedules, be very discreet regarding their plans, and avoid posting information about their personal lives on social networks. Be particularly vigilant when traveling between your home and place of work. Parents should teach children about the danger of strangers and how to be on guard against suspicious behavior. If you ever feel in danger, go directly to the nearest police station.

SOCIOPOLITICAL RISKS

The domestic political environment should be monitored closely as the country has not recovered from its 2009 political crisis. As of 2017, tensions remain high between the executive office and the legislature; deputies unsuccessfully attempted to overthrow the president and the prime minister in the summer of 2015. On May 31, 2016, five opposition parties once again demanded the president's resignation. Beyond these rivalries among political parties, the stability of the political system has been questioned several times. Several ministerial reshuffles have taken place since early 2016, and in May 2016 there were rumors of an imminent coup d'état. Finally, bomb attacks during the June 26, 2016, National Day celebrations killed two people and injured 80 others. No arrests were made in connection to this incident, which has not been claimed by any group. Authorities claimed the attack was an "attempt to destabilize the central power".

Strikes and occasional violent protests have increased since early 2016 and this trend has continued into 2017. The population has denounced the lack of provision of basic services across the country, particularly in the poorest neighborhoods. Strikes to demand retroactive salary payments and to denounce executive interference in judicial cases are also becoming more frequent.

All protests and demonstrations should be avoided due to the high likelihood of violence. In Antananarivo, traditional points of unrest include the vicinity of the presidential palace, along Independence Avenue, around Behoririka Lake, and at 67th Hectare.

HEALTH

Health and sanitation conditions are also a concern, especially due to the inadequate healthcare infrastructures. In the event of a medical emergency, evacuation out of the country may be necessary. It is strongly advised to subscribe to health insurance plan prior to leaving for the country, and ensure that the plan covers repatriation.

Due to the presence of several mosquito-borne diseases in Madagascar, travelers are advised to use a mosquito net, wear long-sleeved tops and pants, and use insect repellent. Transmission of mosquito-borne diseases increases yearly during the rainy season (December to April): dengue, chikungunya, and Rift Valley fever epidemics are often reported. Malaria is endemic in the country and an increase in transmission rates has been observed since early 2012, including in the central highlands, where the disease has been classified as resistant to chloroquine.  

While no Zika virus case having been reported thus far in Madagascar, the presence of mosquitoes that carry the disease have been confirmed in the country.

Vaccination against yellow fever is required for travelers having stayed or transited (more than 12 hours) in the airport of an at-risk country. Authorities have the right to ask for an international yellow fever vaccination certification upon arrival, even for travelers arriving from Europe.

Tap water is not drinkable in Madagascar. To avoid contracting diarrheal diseases, it is advisable to wash hands regularly and to drink only bottled or purified water. Cholera, typhoid fever, tuberculosis, rabies, and poliomyelitis epidemics are frequently reported. Travelers should be aware that a vaccination certificate against poliomyelitis is required for stays longer than 28 days.

Finally, Madagascar suffers from the highest rate of bubonic plague in the world with on average 500 cases reported each year, in particular in central rural areas and in the southeast during the rainy season.  The entire country was placed under a state of emergency at the end of 2016 due to a widespread plague epidemic, which particularly affected the southeast of the country and resulted in the deaths of more than 30 people.

It is recommended to never walk barefoot outdoors and to avoid contact with stagnant water (e.g. lakes) due to the risk of parasitic infection.

TRANSPORTATION

Traveling by car can be challenging in Madagascar due to the poorly developed road infrastructures (except major highways between Antananarivo-Tamatave, Antananarivo-Majunga, and Antananarivo-Fianarantsoa-Toliara) and to the dangerous driving habits of the locals (excessive speed, risky overtaking), especially during the rainy season. Travel by night should be avoided due to the lack of public lighting, and it is advised to travel between cities using a four-wheel drive vehicle with sufficient food, water, and fuel, as well as spare mechanical parts. Violent assaults by armed bandits on secluded highways are frequent throughout the country, especially on the RN7, RN27, RN10, RN13, and RN1B highways. Be particularly vigilant and drive with windows rolled up and doors locked.

In cities, it is best to travel in chauffeured cars or use taxis having been booked in advance by your company or your hotel.  

In the event of a road collision involving physical injury to a local individual, it is strongly advised to immediately go to the nearest police station, as there is a high risk of a hostile reaction by the local population.

Several highways become impassable during the rainy season (December to April), which can lead to a sudden fuel shortages.

Traveling by air can also be dangerous due to certain Air Madagascar aircraft being banned from the European Union airspace for being antiquated and badly maintained. Ferry services are generally uncomfortable and unsafe. Finally, rail services are almost non-existent.

NATURAL RISKS

Madagascar, an island nation located in the Indian Ocean, is highly vulnerable to cyclones during the rainy season (December to April). The coast, along with the northern and southern ends, is typically the most impacted by storms. A Category 4 cyclone affected the island in March 2017, killing 38 people and displacing 52,000 others.

During cyclone season, devastating floods are also common and make most highways impassable. In January 2016, Antananarivo experienced torrential rains, leading to significant material damage. The northern area of the country (Sofia, Boeny, Alaotra, Mangoro, Betsiboka) is also impacted by floods.

The draining system is almost non-existent and is poorly maintained. This can lead to significant disruptions of public transportation and telecommunication infrastructures. Mosquito- and water-borne diseases are more likely to spread during floods.

The south of the country is also hit by droughts. A severe drought-related food crisis has affected the south of the island since December 2016; 850,000 people are currently in need of humanitarian assistance. These dramatic periods can lead to increased tensions in affected areas.

During droughts, bush fires are frequent; in October 2016, the authorities issued an alert regarding the alarming increase in bush fires throughout the country due to the climatic conditions.

Additionally, sharks are present in coastal waters, including off the coast of Antananarivo (northeast). It is advised to monitor the most at-risk beaches and, if necessary, avoid bathing.

LEGAL

Foreign nationals should respect strict customs regulations: the import and export of foodstuff is forbidden, as is the export of more than 100 grams of vanilla per person.

Since January 1, 2016, a tourist tax of 10 euros (approximately USD 15) must be paid by any foreign national entering the country.

Climate

The island nation of Madagascar experiences two seasons, the dry season (April to October) and the rainy season (November to March).

The west coast is the driest and sunniest region of the country. Along the eastern coast it rains throughout the year, with the heaviest precipitation from December to March. In the highlands (where the capital Antananarivo is located), heavy but brief rain storms are common from mid-November until March. The cyclone season lasts from mid-December until mid-April.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +261 Police: 117 Fire Dept.: 117 Ambulance: 117

Electricity

Voltage: 220 V ~ 50 Hz

Outlets:

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