STORY: Southern Madagascar Hunger Crisis - WFP
TRT: 02 min 38s
SOURCE: UNTV CH
LANGUAGE: ENGLISH / NATS
ASPECT RATIO: 16:9
DATELINE: 30 APRIL 2021 GENEVA, SWITZERLAND
After five years of drought, southern Madagascar is at ‘periphery of famine’: WFP
A humanitarian catastrophe caused by unrelenting drought is unfolding in southern Madagascar where children and adults are on the “periphery of famine”, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) said on Friday, in an urgent appeal for international support.
“The writing is on the wall, the images are horrific, and what I saw with my own eyes tell me we are heading towards a disaster and we need to stop that,” said veteran aid logistics expert and Senior Director of Operations in Madagascar, Amer Daoudi.
The development echoes previous alerts from the UN agency, which warned last September that families had already eaten their vital seed stocks over the lean season, leaving them nothing to grow for their next planting season.
“The situation is extremely, extremely, worrisome, scary. They are on the periphery of famine and these are images that I haven’t seen for quite some time across the globe,” Mr. Daoudi said, referring to the situation in “most districts” of southern Madagascar.
“What I witnessed yesterday - again with members of the diplomatic and international community as well as the Government - is horrific images of starving children, malnourished, and not only the children, mothers, parents and the population in the villages we visited.”
The situation has become so dire for many families that they have been forced to sell their cooking utensils – a final desperate coping measure – and eight in 10 people in some southern areas have resorted to eating locusts, raw red cactus fruits or wild leaves.
This had led to “whole villages shutting down and moving to the nearest urban centres”, Mr. Daoudi said, although some were likely too weak to make the relatively short journey.
“There is no place to flee (except) the nearest urban centre, if they can make it, but some of the condition of the people I saw yesterday, will not even make the 40 kilometres track.”
Detailed needs assessments are expected to be completed over the weekend, although data about how many people have already died from hunger in this latest humanitarian emergency in southern Madagascar is unclear.
The UN agency reported that malnutrition in children under five has almost doubled in the last four months and is now at “an alarming” 16.5 per cent, according to latest Government data.
The worst affected district is Ambovombe where child malnutrition is 27 per cent, according to WFP, noting that youngsters with acute malnutrition are four times more likely to die than healthy children.
“If a child dies, they bury (it), there is no reporting, there is no official type (of) reporting to take these numbers, same thing with grown-ups,” said Mr. Daoudi, highlighting the impact of “five years’ consecutive droughts, climatic changes and (a) deteriorating food security situation”.
WFP has appealed for $74 million for the next six months to respond to the emergency “and prevent a catastrophe”.
It currently helps up to 750,000 people a month via food and cash distributions, but
at least 1.35 million people require emergency assistance.
“We need the resources yesterday,” Mr. Daoudi said, speaking via Zoom from Antananarivo. “Because in order to turn resources into mouths…into food in the mouths of people, it will take some time. The infrastructure is extremely bad, it takes forever to get cargo into Madagascar and then from the ports into the affected areas, given how large the area is and how dispersed the population are.”