According to the United Nations (UN), Madagascar is on the brink of experiencing the world’s first “climate change famine.” With no rain in the last four years, tens of thousands of people are already suffering from “catastrophic” levels of hunger and food insecurity. These conditions are not driven by conflict but instead by the deteriorating climate.
The crops sown during the growing season have had no rain, resulting in no harvests this year. Many families have resorted to eating locusts and cactus leaves to survive. Many people’s lives now revolve around foraging for cactus leaves and locusts, but with very little water foods are not properly washed which gives rise to foodborne illnesses. People are dying of hunger and the family they leave behind continues to suffer.
While it is not unusual for Madagascar to experience frequent droughts and the effects of weather pattern changes caused by El Niño, climate experts believe this change can be directly linked to the current climate crisis. The climate crisis is the result of extensive human activity, specifically the carelessness of heavily industrialized nations like the United States and the lack of regulations for big companies like ExxonMobil, Saudi Aramco, and other oil and coal companies. According to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, Madagascar has seen an increase in aridity which has been linked to the current climate crisis. If this level of climate change continues, the country will continue to face increasingly devastating droughts and famine. As the country enters the “lean season,” a period between planting and harvesting when jobs are scarce and incomes drop, many people have no money to eat, pay for their children’s education, or obtain clean water. A severe humanitarian crisis is looming if people do not act to stem climate change and bring the necessary relief.
The people most affected by the drought and famine are those who contribute the least to climate change. They do not burn fossil fuels nor do they contribute to deforestation, yet they disproportionately face the brunt of climate change. One change from the Madagascan authorities that would help the situation is an improvement in water management. If the government can better regulate and allocate water resources there is potential to help the most vulnerable immediately and create a more concrete plan for the future. Forecast predictions will also be very important for farmers moving forward; when rain is forecasted the government should be ready to implement that information to help increase crop production. International action from affluent countries like the United States would also be valuable toward humanitarian development in Madagascar. Laws and regulations designed to eliminate the use of fossil fuels and lower our carbon emissions will be essential toward fighting climate change. Major contributors like the United States, China, India and other industrialized countries must be more willing to change their policies and tighten regulations to help ensure everyone has a safe place to live and work.