(MissionNewswire) Salesian missionaries in Madagascar‘s capital city of Antananarivo provide services to more than 110 boys in the detention home of Anjanamasina. The program, which is often referred to as the “House of Rascals,” is far beyond capacity, originally built and structured to accommodate 60 to 70 youth. There are often not enough provisions for all the youth being held there. For instance, the program only has enough rice to feed 80 people, and in the winter, there are not enough blankets for every boy.
Some of the minors in the program have been prosecuted by the law while others are children whose families can no longer take care of them. In Madagascar, unemployment and economic and socio-political challenges cause many families to consider the education of their children secondary when compared with providing food and meeting the needs of everyday life. Often children are abandoned, as many parents prefer to entrust them to the detention home rather than taking care of them.
Edward is part of the program. After elementary school, he left his family and started using drugs while making a living through small robberies. He returned home, but his parents hit him. He went back to his previous life until he was arrested by the police and was sent to the program. Njaka, 15 years old, was born in a difficult area to poor parents who divorced early on in his life. He could not finish his studies and started living in the street. After stealing a bag, he was taken to Anjanamasina.
For other boys like Rado, 15 years old, it’s a loss of family that brings them to the detention home. After the death of his parents he was entrusted to his aunt who abandoned him. He found a job as a servant in the capital, but since he did not know anyone he struggled to survive in an unfamiliar environment. Found wandering the streets, he was taken by the police and sent to Anjanamasina.
“Salesian missionaries do what they can with the provisions available but the program continues to see an influx of youth in need,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Within the detention home, missionaries provide meals and facilitate recreation and entertainment, music activities, sports programs and religious services. They also help to secure and donate kitchenware, clothes, blankets and other items the boys need.”
Madagascar, an island in the Indian Ocean off the coast of East Africa, is one of the poorest countries in the world. More than 90 percent of its 23 million people live below the international poverty line. Madagascar is ranked 154 out of 188 countries on the 2015 Human Development Index. Women and children in the country are particularly vulnerable to the effects of poverty.
Poverty is also exacerbated by a vulnerable geographical location and topography, which expose the country to various natural hazards, including tropical cyclones, flooding and drought. According to UNICEF, between 2002 and 2011, Madagascar was hit by a total of 22 cyclones affecting close to 3 million people, including an estimated 540,000 children under age 5. An ongoing political crisis has resulted in the suspension of most external assistance to the country and has reduced the capacity of authorities to effectively respond to emergencies.
For close to 80 percent of the country’s inhabitants who live in rural areas and practice subsistence farming, living conditions have been steadily declining in recent years, particularly when it comes to access to transportation, health services, education and markets. Because of the lack of hygiene and access to safe drinking water coupled with chronic malnutrition, people in Madagascar often suffer from respiratory ailments, tuberculosis and hepatitis.
In order to help youth break the cycle of poverty and hopelessness, Salesian missionaries in Madagascar operate elementary, middle and high schools throughout the country. The focus of the schools is on providing educational opportunities, increasing literacy and laying a foundation for education well past the compulsory education required in the country. Access to education and training in social and life skills encourages young students to find livable wage employment, breaking the cycle of poverty.
UNICEF – Madagascar
Salesian Missions – Madagascar