MADAGASCAR – Covid-19 has increased unemployment, prostitution and unwanted pregnancies

Having lost their jobs during the Covid-19 lockdown, many women have had to sell their bodies to survive and feed their families.

Marie, 27, is an example.Six months ago she was still working as a machinist in a factory in one of the free zones in the city.A job that fed her and her three children and allowed her to pay her rent. With her 100,000 ariary per month (€ 21.60), she was able to ensure making ends meet.But this precarious balance changed overnight when the Covid-19 epidemic arrived on the Big Island, and with it a procession of layoffs.“Overnight,I found myself without help, with nothing at all…”

Now, in a neighbourhood inhabited by the roar of bush taxis and cars since lockdown was loosened, she points to a discreet wooden building.“Customers pay for the room.And I charge them each 5,000 ariaryfor sex three or four men each day.

The Malagasy economy was already fragile before the arrival of the pandemic. Two-thirds of the 27 million inhabitants were already living on less than € 1.75 a day.In April, a study by the National Institute of Statistics (Instat) and the World Bank reported a loss of employment in 10.1% of households.While already at the start of the pandemic, the fear of not having enough food for their families was already worrying more than 60% of households surveyed.

In Madagascar, clandestine abortions have increased since the lockdown. They are already the second most common cause of maternal mortality after post-partum haemorrhage. Even if statistics are lacking, unsafe abortions have multiplied in the back rooms of clinics since the arrival of the coronavirus. “During lockdown, we observed a 40% drop in new family planning users at Basic Health Centers (CSB).It is also obvious that the lockdown has had an impact on gender-based violence, which has increased, and its correlate: unwanted pregnancies”,according to a representative of Médecins du Monde, aware of the obstacle course women face.

One young woman, age 20, already with one child on her own, waited for her period for two months and then realised she needed to find the money for a safe abortion (50,000 ariary or €10). There was no time to earn it through prostitution, but she was lucky to find a backstreet provider. Between unknown pills and probably a D&C, she had an abortion. The pain she described is as bad as what her sister had experienced several years earlier at three months of pregnancy, when the abortionist put a needle into her vagina.

SOURCE: Le Monde Afrique, byLaure Verneau,15 September 2020+ PHOTO by Marco Longari / AFP; Le Monde Afrique, byLaure Verneau, 7 October 2020. SEE ALSO Le Monde Afrique, byLaure Verneau,22 July 2020