Southern Madagascar Now At The Precipice Of Famine According To United Nations

The UN World Food Program (WFP) has reported that southern Madagascar – currently in the midst of its worst drought in four decades – is facing a mass food emergency.

WFP chief David Beasley tweeted on Friday that 400,000 people are “marching towards starvation.” A briefing by the WFP published on Wednesday revealed that 1.14 million people are currently food insecure; and of those, 14,000 are already facing “famine-like conditions,” which will double to 28,000 by October.

In Madagascar, because 43 percent of the population is under the age of 15, the famine has been particularly devastating for the well-being of children. The number of children under five years old suffering from acute malnutrition has almost doubled over the last four months, reaching distressing levels. The worst affected part of the country is Ambovombe, a city in the far south with a population of over 100,000, where the rate has spiraled to 27 percent.

Lola Castro, WFP’s regional director in southern Africa, told a news conference that during her visit to the island nation she observed “a very dramatic and desperate situation.” In her 28 years of working for WFP across four continents, Castro revealed she had “never seen anything this bad.” She likened the desperation of the crisis – evidenced in the scores of emaciated adults and children relying on locusts, raw red cactus fruits, and wild leaves for subsistence – to the Bahr el-Gazal famine in modern-day South Sudan in 1998, which resulted in 70,000 deaths.

The UN in partnership with Madagascar’s government is launching an appeal for about $155 million dollars in the coming days to provide urgent food supplies. Thousands of people have left their homes in rural areas and moved to more urban environments in search of food, Castro added.

At present, WFP has reported that 41 million people are at imminent risk of famine across 43 countries, a significant increase from 27 million from two years ago. However, four countries have been identified as already facing famine-like conditions: Ethiopia (especially in the Tigray region), South Sudan, Yemen, and Madagascar. Nigeria and Burkina Faso are also of concern as violence has intensified food insecurity across the Sahel. However, the crisis unfolding in Madagascar is particularly distressing as it portends to future calamities that are triggered by climate change.

“This is not because of war or conflict, this is because of climate change,” David Beasley emphasized. He added that “this is an area of the world that has contributed nothing to climate change, but now, they’re the ones paying the price.”

Madagascar is the only country that isn’t in conflict but still has people facing “Famine-Humanitarian Catastrophe” in the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification known as the IPC, Lola Castro specified. The unfolding crisis calls for greater urgency from the international community towards climate change mitigation efforts before more innocent lives are impacted.