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Reported adult literacy rates in Madagascar vary greatly but, in remote rural areas such as the one frequented by the paleontologists in the northwestern part of the island, it is 0%. There are no schools in these areas and the children, who are bright and eager to learn, receive no formal education of any kind.

Infant mortality in Madagascar is over 12 times greater than in the U.S.A. and mortality for children under five years of age is over 20 times greater. At least one-third of Malagasy children are severely underweight and fully half are stunted. Schistosomiasis, tuberculosis, and leprosy, as well as occasional outbreaks of bubonic plague and cholera, are serious health care problems.


Malnutrition, diarrheal diseases, respiratory infections, and malaria are the leading causes of death among children. While all of these diseases seriously affect Malagasy children, none is more rampant than malaria, with an average of 760,000 cases and 11,000 deaths reported each year. The status of health care in Madagascar is desperate and declining. Whereas 9.2% of the national budget was devoted to health care in 1974, only 2% was so devoted in 1994. The country-wide averages for health care professionals are 24 physicians and 2 dentists for every 100,000 people. These averages, however, mean little in many rural areas where there is a complete absence of health care facilities. Even in the cities, there is an acute shortage of essential drugs and medical supplies.


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