Marjon van Blooijs (28) lives in Madagascar: 'Hunger is gonna cause the most trouble here'

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Marjon van Blooijs (28) from The Netherlands is residing in Madagascar at the moment. "We hear different news all the time from the government."

By Dominic Schep

Added March 26, 2020 19:19 CET | Updated March 28, 2020 01:45 CET

Marjon van Blooijs lives in Madagascar [Personal Archive]

At the time of writing, 23 cases of corona have been reported and the country started to take some measures in an attempt to prevent the further spreading of the coronavirus.

Van Blooijs lives in the small town of Antsirabe, almost 4 hours south of the capital Antananarivo. She has been living in the African country for 1,5 years after going there for a traineeship.

What is it like being in Madagascar at the moment?

The situation is strange here now. Public transportation between cities has stopped and the last flight to Paris is somewhere this week. Most stores and restaurants are being closed in Antananarivo and people are stocking up. People here live day by day and I am afraid it is not the coronavirus which will cause the most trouble but hunger.

It will be very difficult for most people because it is their own business and their own income.

Why are you in Madagascar?

In 2015 I came for the first time to Madagascar to do my internship in Fiananrantsao, which was an unforgettable experience. I really loved the country for its beauty and interesting culture. After coming back to The Netherlands I finished my studies and started working for a bank. This was extremely boring and I started looking for work abroad. That’s how I ended up here.

Are people aware of the situation in other countries?

Maybe not everyone here knows about the disease. Enough people in Madagascar live in the countryside without access to the internet or television. I hope these people are remote enough to not get affected by the virus.

Next to that, many people live on the streets in the cities. Where they will stay during a lockdown?

How is the government coping with the coronavirus?

Personally I don’t trust the government here, and I am not the only one. We hear different news all the time. Last Friday we officially heard about the three first cases in Madagascar. Since these people came from three different airplanes, I find it very hard to believe it is "just three" cases.

All airports are now closed, also for domestic flights. Many people here try to follow the news. But last Monday we were waiting for two hours because the President started his speech two hours later than planned. Telecom providers send messages every day to people about the virus and some people wear masks, but not everyone.

Marjon van Blooijs in Madagascar

Marjon van Blooijs in Madagascar [Personal Archive]

Everyone is just waiting for what will happen next. Although pharmacies are mostly empty and some companies are closed, most people continue their daily life without keeping the 1,5-meter distance.

What is your plan?

I want to stay here because I do not know what to do when I am going back to The Netherlands.

I have my friends here and I am preparing for a full lockdown. At least I have a big garden so I can always go outside if I would like.

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