Madagascar Country Report
Considerable job losses are likely to be provoked by the financial and economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, raising strike risks, particularly in the public sector. The risk is particularly acute in tourism, which formerly accounted for around 15% of GDP but will now suffer heavily from the sustained lack of long-haul business, with the government unlikely to have the capacity to introduce substantive alleviation measures. High-profile arrests using a new anti-corruption unit and a wide investigation of members of parliament will have some dampening effect. However, an endemic culture of political corruption and patronage channelled through parastatals is likely to limit the effectiveness of measures to combat elite-level graft.
Armed gangs have de-facto control over large and expanding areas of the country, but their primary objective is criminal gain. Security forces appear ineffective in controlling the spread of banditry, which has been affecting tourist areas in the west of the country, with several incidents of armed robbery including fatalities. There have been occasional IED and grenade attacks, likely with a political component, but such events were absent from the presidential election in late 2018 and legislative election in May 2019 despite large protests taking place in the months leading up to the presidential poll.
Madagascar has seen a steady rise in violent crime and kidnapping, growth that was accelerated by the prolonged political crisis in 2009–13. These offences were not tackled adequately by the Hery Rajaonarimampianina administration (2014–18), which was preoccupied with more pressing crises. Areas of the country effectively controlled by heavily armed bandits known as dahalos continue to expand, despite campaign promises by new President Andry Rajoelina to tackle the problem. There has also been a surge in attacks on ground cargo as well as carjacking, with risks particularly severe in remote areas after dark. Counterfeiting is an increasing problem, with police seizing quantities of fake 20,000 ariary notes in the capital, Antananarivo, in October 2019.
Civil war risks have declined from elevated to moderate in the past couple of years and are likely to remain at this level despite the probable increase in generalised unrest due to COVID-19 effects. The risks have been falling since the election cycle when Madagascar avoided the possibility of major protests leading to nationwide unrest and possible army intervention. This was largely thanks to a clear victory by Andry Rajoelina in the presidential election in November–December 2018 and legislative polls in May 2019, as well as challenger Marc Ravalomanana accepting defeat despite initial allegations of systematic fraud and rigging. There is virtually no risk of an external attack on Madagascar.
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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