UN seeks $76 million in emergency aid to support Madagascar through its “worst drought in a decade”
The island nation of Madagascar, one of the most impoverished countries in the word, has seen its agricultural season ruined by the worst drought in the decade, the UN humanitarian office said today.
Three consecutive droughts, compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, have left more than 1,27 million people in the island’s Grand Sud area in desperate need of humanitarian assistance.
“The United Nations in Madagascar has just issued a Flash Appeal for US$76 million to urgently support over 1 million people who face huge and potentially life-threatening humanitarian needs for food, nutrition, water and sanitation and health assistance”, said Jens Laerke, spokesperson for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
Speaking today at a news conference at the United Nations in Geneva, Laerke added that “we are trying to be out there urgently right now to save lives which are at risk. The COVID-19 situation has of course made everything much more difficult”.
The COVID-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns have driven people to the brink of survival.
“One of the things that are particular concerning is, of course, that the normal coping mechanisms for people during the lean season--because this is not the first time that we have food insecurity in Madagascar -- is often to send a family member to the larger cities to look for work so that they can send money back home. With COVID-19 this kind of coping mechanism is no longer available because people cannot move and there are no jobs available,” Laerke explained.
Cereal corps, including maize, have been hard-hit by climatic factors in Madagascar’s Grand Sud, and have also suffered due army worms outbreaks. These caterpillar pests attack crops especially after periods of drought, when their green leaf material they normally feed on has been depleted. The average infestation rate In Madagascar has been 53 per cent and yield losses on corn crops are being estimated at 47 per cent by the country’sMinistry of Agriculture.
“One in three people in the south are now severely food insecure. The food security analysis from last month December also showed the alarming projection for more than 135,000 children under the age of 5 suffering from acute malnutrition in the coming months in the Grand Sud, ” Laerke said in making the case for urgent donor support.
The Flash Appeal complements Madagascar’s own national response plan and focuses on the most urgent life-saving and life-sustaining needs of communities in the Grand Sud during the peak of the lean season. According to OCHA , the funding will help improve food security for 1.1 million people, provide access to water for 420,000 of the most vulnerable, give nutritional support to 300,000 children under age 5 and ensure essential health care services for 230,000 people.
Just a week ago, the UN’s World Food Programme appealed for $ 35 million in emergency aid to help fight hunger in the region.