Madagascar Battling ‘Climate Change Famine’ According To UN

According to Reuters, more than one million people (two out of every five residents) in the Grand Sud region of Madagascar require emergency food aid. Al Jazeera reported that at least 30,000 of these residents are currently experiencing the highest internationally recognized level of food insecurity, level 5, according to the UN’s World Food Programme. The current drought has caused agricultural losses of nearly 60 percent in some provinces, causing many to resort to eating locusts, leaves, mud, and cactus fruits to sustain themselves and their families.

Researchers agree that the reality of this famine is that it can be almost entirely attributed to climate change, an unprecedented fact in the face of modern famines. TIME Magazine reports that most modern famines have been man-made, primarily caused by conflict or political inadequacy, coupled with natural disasters. However, this marks the first famine in modern history where none of those factors are present, and instead, climate change is the only responsible party.

Researchers at the University of California at Santa Barbara have said that the rainfall patterns in Madagascar have become increasingly unpredictable. Alice Rahmoun, a spokeswoman for the United Nations told Reuters that for many villages, “the last proper rain was three years ago, in others, eight years ago or even 10 years ago. Fields are bare, seeds do not sprout and there is no food.” Additionally, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change told Reuters that temperatures in southern Africa are increasing at nearly double the global rate, and cyclones already occur more frequently in Madagascar than in any other African country. You can read more about climate change and its effects at our Crisis Index page, linked here.

Madagascar also produces less than 0.01 percent of the world’s annual carbon emissions. The UN World Food Programme’s Shelley Thakral told the BBC, “These people have nothing to contribute to climate change. They don’t burn fossil fuels…and yet they are bearing the brunt of climate change.” Thakral also told Al Jazeera, “The situation has been further exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. While some were looking for seasonal labor and tourism, there have not been any tourists coming into the country for the past 18 months.”

According to Reuters, the French company Nutriset recently opened a facility in southern Madagascar and aims to annually produce 600 tons of therapeutic foods for malnourished children in the country. The World Food Programme’s executive director has also emphasized how much-increased funding and additional support can help alleviate the dire situation in Madagascar, calling on volunteers and donors to contribute what they can to the cause.

While the efforts of Nutriset and the World Food Programme are valuable, they are still not adequate to completely relieve Madagascar of its dire famine status. Because the root cause is climate change, the responsibility lies with the rest of the world to contribute to the fight against it. This means advocacy for legislation that reduces carbon emissions, increased regulations for the coal and gas industries, and more research into alternative and affordable fuel sources. At home, individuals making a conscious effort to reduce their carbon footprints are long enough. This should still be done, undoubtedly, but the most important step to take is educating political representatives so that the previously mentioned laws will be passed, because if representatives don’t know what they should be focusing on, they’ll focus on their interests.

We have reached a time in modern history where the effects of our actions have a lasting effect on the environment on a grand, dire scale. Moreover, these effects are not going away — more likely they will only get worse — so a collective effort across the globe is required to alleviate the effects of climate change as much as possible.