Madagascar, off the south-east coast of Africa, is one of the poorest countries in the world with around 70% of the population living on less than a dollar a day. Several months of violence have left at least 100 people dead. In March, President Marc Ravalomanana resigned and Andry Rajoelina installed himself as head of state.
Travel is difficult and sometimes dangerous as road blocks are in operation, demonstrations take place every day, and people’s lives are disrupted. This has had an impact on the Alliance’s activities and partners in the field.
“There was quite a lot of violence when the President resigned. Today it is quiet but there is still not really any way of knowing what’s going to happen at the moment. The big organisations here have pulled out their expatriat staff from the country. This affects us although we’re not sure what the impact will be on our work yet,” says Holisoa Lalaharimanitra, Country Programme Manager of Alliance Madagascar.
Balou Chabat Rasoanaivo is President of FIMIZORE, an Alliance partner organisation, which last year was awarded the prestigious UNAIDS Red Ribbon in recognition of their outstanding community leadership and action on AIDS.
“What affects us most is the change in ministers and various political leaders. We had established an understanding about the work we are doing through our advocacy efforts,” she says.
FIMIZORE is a network of organisations of sex workers and men who have sex with men (MSM). Its work focuses on promoting human rights, improving relations between sex workers and their communities and improving access to health services. Sex workers are considered to be the ‘nucleus of HIV transmission’ in Madagascar so the focus of the work is with these highly vulnerable groups to reduce their vulnerability to infection and empower them to play an active and effective role in protection of their human rights.
“We had built a good relationship with various government officials and are invited to take part at national level workshops and are consulted," says Balou. "The situation had really started to change. In the capital, Antananarivo, there is less stigma against sex workers and MSM now.
“The problem now is that there is a new transitional government in place and a completely new set of people and we’re now going to have to start from scratch with the advocacy and awareness-raising all over again.”
Balou is concerned that they will face another long process before further change comes about.
Their outreach work has been affected by the curfew as they are unable to reach the sex workers to provide condoms, advice and information
“The political crisis is affecting the way we are doing things and it’s not the ideal scenario for us but we are still going ahead with our activities," says Holisoa. "We have to conduct meetings or go to the bank to do our transactions only in the mornings because offices are closed in the afternoon. We had to delay moving into our new office as it was too risky to move around in a lorry in the city centre. This of course has slowed us down."
The Alliance secretariat would like to acknowledge the huge amount of work and extra effort put in by Alliance Madagascar staff over the last few months to ensure that activities continue and commitments are not broken. They have achieved a great deal in a very difficult context and we would like to thank them for this.