Earthwatch Institute, Maynard, MA, March 5 2009 - Since 26 January 2009 there have been violent demonstrations and looting in the Madagascar capital of Antananarivo as a result of unresolved local political tensions between anti-government opposition leader Andry Rajoelina and President Marc Ravalomanana. Earthwatch has been monitoring the situation closely, and will send out another advisory in late April with a final decision regarding projects scheduled to field in Madagascar this summer. As always, safety is our primary concern.
The violence has spread to other provincial cities, resulting in more than 125 deaths. The rival leaders are currently negotiating and have agreed to cease violence, public demonstrations and politically motivated arrests. While it is reported to be calm in the city, security could deteriorate without warning.
Currently, both the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office and the US State Department have advised against non-essential travel to Madagascar. The violence has so far not been directed against foreign travelers, but there remains a risk of exposure to incidental violence during outbreaks of unrest. A nationwide night-time curfew remains in place with varying timings in different parts of the country (currently from 22.00 to 04.00 local time in Antananarivo).
Travelers are specifically advised to avoid Independence Avenue, the Place du 13 Mai, the presidential palace, the offices of political parties and media outlets, as well as in the so-called ‘red zone' comprising ministries and government buildings. Visitors are further advised to check local media sources for more information.
Earthwatch is regularly communicating with our partners and project staff on the ground as well as with International SOS, our health and security consultants. The lead scientist for Earthwatch's "Carnivores of Madagascar" project, Luke Dollar, is in constant contact with the project staff in Madagascar who will continue to provide updates on the situation.
Our first team of the year is in early July 2009. We will continue to monitor the situation closely through the US Department of State, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office and International SOS recommendations, among others, and respond as appropriate to any further developments. We will make final decisions on whether the teams will field in late April 2009.
Earthwatch cannot guarantee anyone's safety completely. Natural and political disasters can and do happen without warning. Volunteers should read Project Briefings thoroughly and think carefully about their personal comfort level with the field conditions of the project, the volunteer tasks and their own physical and mental capabilities. We encourage volunteers to educate themselves about current conditions in Madagascar by consulting the following resources:
United States State Department: Madagascar
United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Madagascar
Australia Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade: Madagascar
Member Login: 14ACPA000075, select "Security Online" from the drop-down menu.
If you are scheduled to field on an Earthwatch expedition and would like to speak to an advisor please call 1-800-776-0188.