January 21, 2022 4:58 pm

The first climate change famine breaks out in Madagascar

The most intense drought in Madagascar for 40 years, together with other environmental phenomena caused by man, has unleashed what the World Food Program considers “first famine of climate change”.

“We have some phase 5 outbreaks of the Integrated Food Security Classification, which means famine-like conditions. This is basically the only, maybe the first, climate change famine on earth,” said Deputy Director Arduino Mangoni. of the World Food Program (WFP) in Madagascar.

After a recent “heartbreaking” visit to an emergency nutrition center in the south of the country, the UN agency official said he had encountered “silence and lack of joy”: children staring at you and deeds. really skin and bone.

“I have been working with the Program in various countries on this continent, in various emergencies, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic, in Darfur, and I have never seen children in the situation they are in.”

© PMA/Tsiory Andriantsoarana

Residents of the drought-affected communities of Ifotaka in southern Madagascar collect food aid provided by the UN World Food Program (WFP).

The worst drought in memory

Speaking to reporters in Geneva via Zoom, Mangoni explained that the region has been affected by the most intense drought in the last 40 years. “The older people we assist in the south, they keep telling us that this is the most serious phenomenon – the KéréThey call it – since 1981, “he said.

In total, some 1.3 million Malagasy suffer to varying but high degrees from food shortages. All of them enter phases 3, 4 and 5 of the Integrated Food Safety Classification, according to the latest available data for April. The next forecasts will be published at the end of the year.

The number of people in phase 3 and above, about 1.3 million, is now higher than in 2016, during the crisis that triggered the El Niño weather phenomenon, the agency official continued, noting that, in fact, there were little difference between categories 3 to 5.

“If we look at the forecasts for the next few months, the situation is very alarming,” he said, noting that trends since last year have risen.

“So if you just look at category 4, about 200,000 people (were) in this category in the last quarter of last year. Now, we have about half a million; with a forecast of people in phase 5 also around 30,000, by the end of the year, when the new qualifying results are available, “explained the coach.

A famine consequence of the weather

Unlike the other famines in Yemen, South Sudan and Ethiopia, which are triggered by conflict, the Madagascar crisis is likely the result of devastating weather factors, the food program official noted.

“We have some acute phenomena, like … consecutive droughts in the last five years, a new sandstorm phenomenon probably caused by soil erosion, deforestation of the last 20 to 30 years and then, of course, the consequences. , and the effects of COVID-19, “he said.

Due to the impact of the pandemic on tourism and supply chains, villagers who had previously sought work in cities during lean times have been left without this alternative, Mangoni said.

Increase in the price of food and water

People have also exhausted their usual survival techniques, such as selling their kitchen utensils: “We have high prices, inflation is staggering, especially in the prices of food, including water,” he added. “And we also suffer insecurity, there is a new phenomenon called dahalo, the bandits ravaging the area. “

According to the World Food Program, it is believed that some 500,000 children under the age of five are malnourished; It is estimated that 110,000 of them will suffer from severe malnutrition between now and April 2022.

“These are the children who are at risk of dying if they are not supported,” Mangoni said, adding that measuring the effects of famine on very young babies is tricky, as deaths in those under the age of six are often unrecorded. months.

To help those most in need, WFP has already expanded rationing and nutrition programs; It also plans to reach more than one million people in the 3-5 emergency phase starting in December, which is the peak of the lean season; “until the next good harvest”, which is expected to arrive in April 2022.

To provide this emergency assistance over the next six months, the agency has requested $ 69 million.


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