A drought plaguing Madagascar is the worst the island country has faced in 40 years, and it is threatening more than a million people with food shortages. Low rains in the south of the island have prolonged poor harvests and a subsequent hunger crisis.
What is Happening?
- The UN estimates that the south of the island will produce less than half its usual harvest in the coming months because of low rains, prolonging a hunger crisis already affecting half the Grand Sud area’s population. The area saw 50% of its usual rains during the October planting season, in a fourth year of drought.
Speaking to the Guardian, Julie Reversé, emergency coordinator in Madagascar for Médecins Sans Frontières, said, “Without rain, they will not be able to return to the fields and feed their families. And some do not hesitate to say that it is death that awaits them if the situation does not change, and the rain does not fall.”
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- According to the Famine Early Warning System Network, most poor families need to resort to foraging for wild foods and leaves that are difficult to eat and can be dangerous for children and pregnant women. Aid agencies have reported people eating termites and mixing clay with tamarind.
- Sandstorms in December have worsened the situation by covering farming land and food, such as the cactus fruit, which is often relied on during the “lean season.”
Reversé says, “Most of the people living in the southern part of Madagascar rely essentially on their harvest for food and income, but because of the drought and the lack of rain, people cannot cultivate what they usually eat or sell at the market.”
- The UN World Food Programme says that acute malnutrition in children under five has almost doubled over the past four months in most districts in the south.
- Further, the the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), a multi-agency body that monitors global food security, issued an alert of a “sustained deterioration in food insecurity in the Grand South of Madagascar from April to December 2021,” saying, “Over 1.1 million people are in high acute food insecurity due to insufficient rainfall, rising food prices and sandstorms. The lean season is expected to begin earlier than usual for the current consumption year, as households will deplete their low food stocks due to minimal production.”
- There are reports of other illnesses in the area as well, including bilharzia (a waterborne disease caused by parasitic flatworms), diarrhoea, malaria and respiratory infections. Aid agencies say that they are caused by malnutrition, as well as a lack of clean water.
- Despite this, people in the south are still sending family members to look for work but COVID-19 has closed small businesses and ended the seasonal work created by the tourism industry.
Featured image by: Flickr