File image - Gendarmes in Madagascar said Saturday they had shot dead nine zebu thieves and rounded up close to 200 of the stolen cattle as they ramped up their battle against killer rustling gangs. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi

Antanarivo - The UN special rapporteur on modern slavery said Wednesday that poverty and impunity were exacerbating contemporary servitude in Madagascar, one of the world's poorest countries.

After a 10-day tour of the country, Gulnara Shahinian said child labour in small-scale mining operations and the marrying off of young girls to older men were also issues of concern on Africa's largest island.

Shahinian, who held talks with Prime Minister Jean Omer Beriziky, urged Madagascan authorities to take concrete steps to fight poverty, and to end modern-day slavery.

“I have learnt that parents send their children to be domestic workers or to pay a debt or earn money to feed the family,” Shahinian said.

The prime minister blamed cultural norms as an obstacle in the battle against slavery in Madagascar.

Madagascar is in the throes of a political crisis since the ouster of ex-president Marc Ravalomanana in 2009 by a former disc jockey, Andry Rajoelina.

The crisis has hit the economy hard and further impoverished the nation. - Sapa-AFP