The Exploitation of Children in Madagascar: the disturbing reality of a crisis that denies the rights of the child

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The political and socioeconomic crisis, brought on by the coup in 2009, radically affected the lives of the population, particularly the children. A year after the presidential elections of October to December 2013 (which raised so many hopes of democracy to end the crisis), violations of the rights of Malagasy children are occurring daily, in an unprecedented magnitude in Madagascar: the exploitation of children, an oppression denounced by the UN.

The rights of children facing poverty — and the realities

Many jobs were lost, further weakening a low-income country: 90% of the population lives below the poverty line. Poor families cannot fulfill their basic needs, and are completely vulnerable to deprivation and to crises. The scarcity of food prevails: chronic infantile malnutrition, which affects more than half of all children under the age of 5, is alarming, according to the UN rapporteur dedicated to the rights to food.

Families are forced to make difficult choices, which are often detrimental to the rights of the child. Also, in Antananarivo, the capital, numerous children are left to fend for themselves in the street, abandoned or forced to beg in order to feed themselves or to bring money back home.

The exploitation of children is normalized

Another more insidious consequence has emerged: with the crisis, a quarter of Malagasy children between 5 and 17 years have to work to help support their families. Worse still: the UN has denounced the link between poverty and modern day slavery in Madagascar, e.g. in the mines or as domestic help for private individuals. These children are increasingly becoming victims of trafficking from Madagascar to the Middle East.

Furthermore, according to the UN, the sexual exploitation of children is becoming commonplace. Young girls choose to become prostitutes to escape poverty, sometimes attracted by the ease of profit, or the hope of meeting a wealthy stranger.

These adverse effects of the crisis are also seen in the increased level of violence within the family unit, especially towards girls, which occurs along with the abusers’ impunity and other mistreatment of children.

Young Malagasy children are overlooked: their living conditions are dependent on the goodwill of adults and of the state of Madagascar. The return to political stability will be a first step towards possibly improving the children’s situation. However, an awareness of Malagasy society is also necessary: its children are currently being sacrificed, yet they represent the hope of a better future for the island.


Banque mondiale

Banque mondiale, Rapport Madagascar Assessment of Social Protection and Operational Challenges, Volume II: Background

Papers, June 23, 2010

UNICEF, ATD Quart Monde, Rapport d’évaluation finale du projet Cash transfer « Appui

à la lutte contre les formes de violence envers les enfants en période de crise et d’urgence »,

Madagascar, 2012.

Site UNICEF Madagascar

Rapport Annuel de la situation humanitaire, 2012


Written by: Henintsoa Ravoala

Translated by: Linda Davies

Proofread by :Allison CHARETTE