The eastern coast of Madagascar is incredibly fertile, but its tropical climate means the region is hit by cyclones every year. This means that people’s livelihoods are constantly under threat of destruction, and many don’t have the resources to rebuild their homes.
Food security is one of the biggest issues affecting the population
Children at the SOS Children's Villages Kindergarten (photo: SOS archives).
The city of Toamasina (formerly Tamatave) is located on Madagascar’s eastern coast on the Indian Ocean. It has a population of over 200,000. The main ethnic group are the Betsimisaraka, as well as a large segment of people of Indian heritage; the latter have traditionally been wealthier, which has led to tensions in the past. Toamasina Province has a tropical climate and cyclones and flooding are common during the rainy season.
On several occasions, the city was completely destroyed by cyclones and had to be rebuilt. In 2010, for example, Cyclone Hubert made 85,000 people homeless and flooded rice paddies all along the eastern coast. This insecurity makes it even more difficult for people to find a way out of poverty.
Toamasina’s economy is based on its petroleum refinery, which is the biggest in the country, as well as its seaport. The devaluation of the Malagasy Franc in 1994 meant a dramatic rise in prices of imported goods, however. The majority of the local population lives in rural areas and makes a living in agriculture. Their lives are fraught with difficulty: food security is a big problem and malnutrition in children under the age of five kills thousands of children each year. In the city, many make a living pulling the so-called “pousse-pousse” rickshaw-like taxi carts.
The coastal region here on the east of the island is often referred to as the “Madagascan Riviera” and is a popular international tourist destination. Although tourism means money for the local economy, it also brings its share of problems: children often work in the tourism sector, which can expose them to a great many dangers including sexual exploitation in the worst cases.
SOS Social Centres for holistic and sustainable progress in the community
SOS Children’s Villages began its work in Mangarano near Toamasina in 1998. In recent years, we have continuously expanded our family strengthening programme in the region so as to reach as many struggling families as possible. The aim is to alleviate hardship and maintain family stability so that children will be safe and protected and grow up in a loving home.
We now run SOS Social Centres in Mangarano, Morarano and Ankirihiry. The social centres ensure that children have access to essential health and nutritional services, as well as education. We assist parents by providing guidance on income-generating skills and parenting practices, as well as counselling and psychological support where needed. In cooperation with local organisations, we work towards strengthening the support systems for vulnerable families within the community.
What we do in Mangarano
Young people dressed in traditional costumes (photo: SOS archives).
For children from the region who are no longer able to live with their parents, 14 SOS families can provide a loving home for up to 125 children. In each family, the children live with their brothers and sisters, affectionately cared for by their SOS mother.
The children attend the SOS Kindergarten together with children from the neighbourhood, which ensures that they are integrated into the local community from a young age. The children then go on to complete their primary and secondary education at the SOS schools, which are attended by around 400 pupils.
When young people who grew up in an SOS family feel ready to move out of the family home in order to pursue further education or vocational training, our SOS Youth Programme continues to support them as they make the transition into adulthood.
The SOS Medical Centre offers medical assistance, especially to pregnant women and babies. We also provide check-ups, vaccination programmes and other preventive measures.