By Vatican News
Issues that have to do with the care of the environment, development t and social justice will be central during Pope Francis’ apostolic visit to Madagascar.
The Indian Ocean Island is the fourth largest island in the world. It boasts a unique ecosystem, with many species of plants and animals found nowhere else. Despite the potential of the country, the population is impoverished due to political instability which has undermined government institutional capacity, economic growth and development efforts. It has also reduced people's access to basic services and their ability to prevent and recover from frequent climatic shocks.
According to the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP), 92% of Madagascar's population lives on less than US$ 1,90 per day. And, affecting almost half of all children under 5 - the world’s fourth highest rate – chronic malnutrition is considered a major public health concern in Madagascar.
Cedric Charpentier, Vice Director for WFP’s Madagascar Programme, told Vatican News how the agency is present on the island nation with a series of projects to assist the population, 42% of which suffers from malnutrition.
But first he speaks about the reasons the resource-rich nation is afflicted by this problem.
Charpentier explains that there is the need to educate the population as regards the most suitable food practices for health. He says that Madagascar has huge potential and that there are areas where agriculture works well, but there are also many areas where natural resources are continually threatened by the high frequency of climate shocks and where public infrastructure is limited.
Madagascar, Charpentier notes, is one of the ten African countries most exposed to natural disasters, and it is the first on the continent for the damage caused by cyclones.
Charpentier explains that WFP's interventions in Madagascar are carried out in support of the government, in accordance with the objectives of sustainable development of the United Nations to eliminate hunger and create partnerships.
He says the agency has a strategic plan of 300 million US$ for the next five years and stresses the importance of strengthening the relationship between humanitarian aid and development, of building resilience, addressing the root causes of chronic vulnerability, and preparing people for the capacity to respond to shocks.
Charpentier says most WFP projects are implemented in the poorest regions of the country and address the most vulnerable people, especially children and women.
Engaging with women
He explains that women are central to the projects being implemented and says that particular attention is given to training women because they do not have access to land ownership.
He also speaks of WFP’s commitment to sustain primary school children providing meals and nutrition.
He notes that school canteens are fundamental and said there are projects to increase their numbers because many more children are able to pursue and education if they receive a meal. In Madagascar, he says, there are 24,000 public primary schools but only 1300 of them have canteens. This means that only 350,000 students are guaranteed a meal a day. The other four million children receive nothing to eat at school.
“There’s a lot more to be done for children,” Charpentier said.