Madagascar Country Report
President Hery Rajaonarimampianina appears highly likely to lose the election in late 2018 to either of his two predecessors, Andry Rajoelina and Marc Ravalomanana. The incumbent’s mixed record on restoring socio-economic indicators and the divisiveness of the two challengers are likely to drive a prolonged period of instability extending to after a second round due on 19 December. Large areas of the country are dangerous for travelling due to the security forces’ inability to bring banditry under control, and incidents of armed robbery are extending to western tourist areas north of Morondava. The IMF is helping to strengthen institutions and monitor the use of USD6.7 billion pledged by donors in December 2016 mostly for infrastructure projects. Kidnapping of businessmenand family members is an increasingly serious problem.
Madagascar is aiming to address one of the main drawbacks to investment by sourcing multilateral and bilateral donor funding to support major transport infrastructure projects including port construction and rehabilitation, and improving the crumbling road network. Harder to address is the legacy of corruption entrenched among the political class and the civil service during the 2009–13 interim administration. Despite the strengthening of anti-graft institutions, the weakness of President Hery Rajaonarimampianina’s political position prevents him enforcing firmer action. Low revenues, poor administration, and government interference will continue to drive public-sector strike action.
Sporadic improvised explosive device (IED) and grenade blasts have occurred in Madagascar’s capital, Antananarivo, in the last few years and are usually driven by intense political competition. Fatalities are rare in low-impact attacks, though in June 2016 an explosion at the Mahamasina municipal stadium killed two and injured more than 70 during independence celebrations. The imminence of a general election due in late 2018 means that the limited risk of IED attacks on political gatherings will rise, as a tight three-way contest is in prospect. Armed gangs have de facto control over large and expanding areas of the country, but their primary objective is criminal gain.
Civil war risks are rising because of the proximity of the general election due in late 2018, the country’s turbulent recent political history, and a close three-way presidential contest in prospect. In the event of a disputed result, demonstrations would be largely confined to the capital and main port. The armed forces have shown an unwillingness to continue using lethal force against political demonstrations, although there would be a limited likelihood of a coup in the event of a close and disputed election result, particularly if deposed former president Marc Ravalomanana looked like winning. There is virtually no chance of an external attack on the island.
The prospect of a combative and close election contest in late 2018 between the incumbent president and his two immediate predecessors has been driving persistent disruptive political demonstrations in the long lead-up, particularly in the capital, Antananarivo. Security forces are increasingly reluctant to confront participants, meaning further frequent demonstrations are likely to take place unhindered. The scale is likely to increase after the election, at least for a short time, driven by supporters of losing the presidential candidates. Protests focusing on mining projects, power blackouts, fuel price rises, and socio-economic grievances will be more durable and widespread.
Vaccinations required to enter the country
Proof of vaccination against yellow fever is required for all individuals traveling from a country with risk of yellow fever transmission.
Hepatitis A: A vaccine is available for anyone over one year of age. The vaccine may not be effective for certain people, e.g. those born before 1945 and who lived as a child in a developing country and/or have a past history of jaundice (icterus). These people can instead get a shot of immune globulin (IG) to boost their immunity against the disease.
Hepatitis B: A vaccine is available for children at least two months old.
Diphtheria-Tetanus-Polio: A booster shot should be administered if necessary (once every ten years).
Yellow Fever: A vaccine is available for children over the age of one year.
Typhoid Fever: If your travels take you to regions with poor sanitary conditions (for children two years old and up).
Rabies: For prolonged stays in an isolated region (for children from when they can walk).
Malaria: Recommended preventive medication - mefloquine (sometimes marketed as Lariam), doxycycline (sometimes marketed as Vibramycin), or proguanil and atovaquone (sometimes marketed as Mepron).
For Children: All standard childhood immunizations should be up-to-date. In the case of a long stay, the BCG vaccine is recommended for children over one month and the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine for children over nine months.
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.
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.
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.
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