The United Nations World Food Program reports that thousands of people in Madagascar are on the verge of famine. A senior U.N. food agency official has stated that a severe drought in southern Madagascar is exposing hundreds of thousands to famine at a scale “beyond belief.” “If we don’t reverse this crisis,” World Food Program Senior Director of Operations Amer Daoudi said, “if we don’t get food to the people in the south of Madagascar, families will starve and lives will be lost.”
Madagascar’s Ministry of Health has reported that its Global Acute Malnutrition (G.A.M.) levels have more than doubled in four months. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, G.A.M. is used to assess the level of acute malnutrition in refugee children from ages 6 to 59 months. A G.A.M. level lower than 10% indicates low levels of wasting in a refugee population. A G.A.M. higher than 15% is considered to be a very high-level public health concern. Madagascar’s 16.5% G.A.M. level indicates that immediate action is necessary to address its population’s acute malnutrition.
Children experiencing acute malnutrition are four times more likely to die than a healthy child. Southern Madagascar’s children are at an incredibly high risk of mortality. In Ambovombe, the district worst affected by the famine, G.A.M. levels are above 27%. With very little accessible food remaining, Al Jazeera and U.N. News report that people in the affected regions have resorted to consuming wild leaves, raw red cactus fruits, and locusts. The World Food Program reports that a minimum of 1.35 million people need emergency food and nutritional assistance.
Southern Madagascar’s famine is the culmination of several years of prolonged drought. According to U.N. News, the droughts have taken a toll on agriculture and depleted vital seed stocks. There were no seeds to plant for the November/December 2020 planting season. Inadequate rain over the 2020 planting season will further worsen the 2021 harvest, which, in turn, will cause the lean season from October to March 2022 to be more strenuous. These inadequate natural resources and continued droughts reflect the severe consequences of global warming.
Amer Daoudi has appealed for urgent food relief, funds, and resources to save southern Madagascar’s malnourished children and families. U.N. News estimates that the World Food Program will require $74 million over the next six months to make sure that Malagasy people are fed. It is imperative to address both the current humanitarian crisis and the climate change which brought it about.