After wanting to go for some time, we finally made it to Parc de Tsarasoatra, a nature reserve that is only 2 km from our apartment. It is a truly beautiful oasis in the general hustle and bustle of Antananarivo. It was great for the four of us to be out in nature together. After a few minutes of walking, I was quickly reminded of the intense natural beauty of Madagascar, which can be forgotten, to be honest, if one spends too much time in the capital. There are many birds at the reserve, 14 endemic species in fact. It was very peaceful to be there. Grady, our 3-year-old, was happy because he discovered a rundown bulldozer that must have been used at one point to clear paths. He loves all types of work vehicles so that was the highlight for him.
On Thursday Cyclone Enawo hit Madagascar’s northeast coast, near Sambava and Antalaha. So far, there are five reported deaths, though that number will likely rise. The main problem with such a natural disaster is that the great majority of people here live on a razor’s edge. They make it through the days but not with much to spare at the end. When you come to Madagascar from the developed world, the poverty is outsized and inescapable. Based on recent estimates, Madagascar is the 10th poorest country in the world. It’s GDP per capita is $1,504 compared to $53,042 in the US. These figures show the vast gap in material standards of living between the two countries. Before we left for Madagascar, a hurricane struck Myrtle Beach. It was serious and some in coastal regions were forced to evacuate. However, no matter how bad things got there, people could always count on the emergency services provided by taxpayer dollars to help them if things got very bad. The same is sadly not true here. And much more could be said about the disparity between the wealth and infrastructure in the US and Madagascar. I will say this for now: I had no idea how much cushion we were riding on in the states until I came here the first time around and saw what it is like to live so close to the bone, so on the very sharp edge of it, so near to tragedy. Some calamities seem to come right from the pages of the Bible. There are plagues of locusts, after all. Not to mention outbreaks of the bubonic plague and polio recently. Of course, the cyclone exposes the fact that life is lived so close to the bone, as does the severe draught in the south, as does the lack of proper rainfall all over the island, as does the general lack of security. It is a great testament to the will of the Malagasy people that they forbear with so few resources, with no cushion whatsoever, in the face of so much that tries to crush them. While the poverty persists or worsens in many cases, they grind on. They refuse. They remain.
There are many things that will need to be changed for Madagascar to improve its living standards for the population. And it will obviously be a complex process. One thing that gives me hope that it will happen is that the people have the mettle to do it. They are waiting for it. Enduring this and suffering that and praying for the day of relief. A day when they can finally catch their collective breathe, laugh deeply, and say that they have finally made it. A day to show the truth of the famous Malagasy proverb, Tsy misy mafy tsy laitry ny zoto (There is nothing difficult which the diligent cannot accomplish).