Water resources in Madagascar are distributed geographically and are characterized by heavy rainfall during the summer and annual rainfall of between 2,000 mm and 3,000 mm [1]. The arid areas of southern Madagascar receive less than 400 mm of precipitation per year and have limited water supplies. Water resources from rivers and rainfall provide for the water needs of the country both in terms of agriculture and human usage, as well as electrical power generation.

Madagascar's water management system, however, remains insufficient to meet the agricultural and consumption needs of a growing population, and the country is experiencing one of the world's worst water crises[2]. In 2017, the water availability in Madagascar was 13,179.24 m³/cap/year [3]. Well below Sub-Saharan Africa average, Madagascar ranks among countries with the lowest access rate to drinking water and sanitation. In 2020, nearly 60% of the population had no access to clean water and 89% had no access to sanitation [4]. However, the country reports that from 2015 to 2020, the access rate for drinking water has risen from 25% to 47%, and improved sanitation increased from 25% to 46%. Still, inequalities persist in access for drinking water, sanitation services and hygiene, with 25% of population in rural areas having no access to safe and constant drinking water [5].

Poor access to drinking water and sanitation facilities has had severe impacts on the environment and on public health, education, poverty, nutrition. For example, diarrheal diseases in the country are the second leading cause of death after malaria and affects 51% of children under 5 years [6]. The Grand South region is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, especially  in  terms  of  water  resource  management.  This  situation  affects  water  supply  and agriculture, as well as the nutrition of the population [4].


Natural and anthropogenic pressures such as deforestation, erosion, saltwater intrusion exacerbate the water problems in Madagascar. Erosion and the resulting excessive sedimentation cause enormous damage to water infrastructure [2].

One of the mail issues of sanitation and hygiene in Madagascar is open defecation. The rate of open defecation increased between 2000 and 2015. In 2017, this rate is estimated at 44.6% or more than 10 million people including 9 million in rural areas , which has severe impacts on human health and environment [5].

Climate variability also exacerbates water management problems in Madagascar. Reduced rainfall and higher temperatures exacerbate water shortages and increase the demand for irrigation, further straining water resources. Poor management of water infrastructure and the increasing demand from a growing population also contribute to the vulnerability of the sector [7].


Key policies and governance approach

The primary legislation pertaining to water in Madagascar is the Law n° 1998- 029, to which since 2003 several decrees have been added to improve and protect water sources in the country [8]. The implementing decrees were issued to establish the Malagasy drinking water supply and sanitation policy, and establishment of relevant institutions.

The Ministry of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (MEAH) houses the Directorate of Water Resources Management (DGRE) and the Directorate of Environmental Integration (DIDE) which oversee the implementation of the Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) policy in Madagascar [9]. The National Wetlands Strategy and the National Wetlands Management Guide have been established in Madagascar, and the national fisheries policy is also developed. In addition, policy, legal and strategic frameworks for the Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) sector are in place and structured. This includes the adoption of the ambitious national WASH strategy which  has been aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals and outlines key commitments for increasing access to safe water and sanitation facilities in Madagascar [10].


Successes and remaining challenges

Madagascar has not met its 2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDG) targets and based on current trends; it will also not meet the SDGs by 2030 unless significant changes are made [10]. This is due to various reasons among them being the lack investment, poor maintenance of existing systems and inadequate quality controls, limited organizational and human capacity[10] [4].

 In all, adequate funding for the WASH sector is the most important challenge. The government continues to commit to increasing national funds in the WASH sector, unfortunately this key commitment is not being met due to limited domestic funding and the country's economic situation. The Government of Madagascar's commitment to allocate at least 0.5% of GDP to the WASH sector has not materialized [10]. To date, the budget allocation for the sector has barely reached 0.01% of GDP [10][11]. A recent study conducted by WaterAid shows that the country still depends on aid from foreign donors to achieve its WASH goals [10].


Initiatives and Development Plans

The government of Madagascar is committed to international frameworks, such as the Sanitation and Water for All initiative, the eThekwini Declaration, the Ngor Declaration on Sanitation and Hygiene and the Rio [11] [12].

To ensure sustainable access to water and sanitation for all by 2030, a national water, hygiene and sanitation policy was drawn up in 2020 and as well as the Water, Hygiene and Sanitation Sector Programme 2019-2023. The health sector has also integrated the objective of 100% of health centres to be equipped with WASH infrastructures and targets to build or renovate WASH infrastructures in 450 schools per year[10][11].


Goals and Ambitions

Madagascar has a vision of universal access to water, sanitation and hygiene by 2030 [13].




  • Appropriate measures should be developed to prepare for the potential negative shocks that climate change could have on the management and use of water resources in Madagascar.
  • The recommended actions drawn from the World Bank adaptation strategies are to invest in water monitoring and information systems as a basis for a more efficient and equitable use of water resources in all sectors, especially regarding increasing access to water resources.
  • Madagascar should focus on developing and implementing water saving infrastructure for different types of water use; improve water management, by rationalizing local water pricing structures to ensure better cost recovery and greater water conservation in Madagascar.
  • The country should analyze and revise water supply and demand with the aim of improving system efficiency and considering revised water cycles resulting from climate change and variability. Finally, it would be important to implement awareness campaigns at community level to promote greater responsibility in the management of water resources.