Between 2018 and 2022, Southern Madagascar experienced a prolonged drought as rainfall became scarcer amid a changing climate. Food security was devastated and widespread hunger ensued to reach near-famine proportions. The impoverishment and health impacts of malnutrition and stunting caused by these lean years will be felt for years to come.
The strain of losing access to water, watching crops die, losing livelihoods and seeing family members go hungry can lead to social stress within households and communities, and give rise to violence and conflict.
"In 2020, the World Bank teamed up with researchers at the Global Studies Institute, California State University, and put in place a monitoring system to track the social impacts of the drought in Southern Madagascar."
In 2020, the World Bank teamed up with researchers at the Global Studies Institute, California State University, and put in place a monitoring system to track the social impacts of the drought in Southern Madagascar. Every four months, a representative panel of 480 respondents was asked to reflect on the impacts of the drought and how various social dynamics were faring.
This monitoring system revealed important social trends during the drought and recovery period in Southern Madagascar. Here are three key trends uncovered by the survey:
1) Drought has resulted in a perceived increase in rates of violence against women.
Even before the drought, life in Southern Madagascar was particularly hard for women. Regions in the south already had the highest rates of violence against women and girls, particularly concerning sexual violence, with 16% of women and girls reporting violence compared to the national average of 7%. Cultural norms and beliefs about gender, along with ambiguous and weak laws about violence, contributed to the issue.
But the drought only made things worse.At its peak, 47% of the survey respondents reported worsening violence against women. The survey also showed that women were actively trying to mitigate the impact of food insecurity on their families by being the first to cut their food intake to ensure their children were fed.
2) Communal violence including theft and cattle raiding rose during the drought.
Low-level community conflict has been long persistent in Southern Madgascar. Cattle raiding in the region is driven by organised groups, but at a local level attracts young men seeking income. Survey respondents linked the increased hunger and poverty during the drought to a rise in opportunistic cattle raiding, as well as other acts of harm such as theft, kidnapping and murder as people tried to access income through any means possible.
3) The prolonged drought intensified migration.
Moving was a last resort only pursued when other household coping mechanisms failed, such as seeking alternative sources of income, changing food consumption, or selling household goods.Women migrants, for example, faced a heightened risk of gender-based violence, including human trafficking and other forms of discrimination.
These social consequences of the drought in Madagascar pushed already poor people into deeper vulnerability and exclusion, making their pathway out of poverty and towards sustainable development even harder. The World Bank is working with the Government of Madagascar to bring a holistic perspective by considering the social consequences in its response in Southern Madagascar.We are looking for solutions that can help foster support and stabilize communities after a time of great social upheaval. The data suggest that a full recovery for Southern Madagascar will only be complete once the social impacts of the disaster have been addressed.