Madagascan villages on ‘the brink of death’ in ‘climate change famine’ – UN issues warning

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In South Madagascar, tens of thousands of people are on the edge of reaching catastrophic levels of hunger according to the United Nations. The disaster is the result of what the UN describes as the world’s first “climate change famine” as the country experiences one of its worst-ever droughts.

After four years of insufficient rainfall and sandstorms, isolated farming communities in Grand Sur are facing their worst drought since 1981.

Semi-arid conditions in southern Madagascar, combined with high levels of soil erosion and deforestation have transformed arable land into a wasteland.

Unprecedented sandstorms have also covered croplands, rendering them unusable.

The latest reports from WFP say urgent action is required to address the unfolding humanitarian crisis.

Some 28,000 people are struggling to find enough food to survive according to the UN World Food Programme – while 1.14 million are suffering from acute food security.

In Amboasary Atsimo, the epicentre of the crisis, roughly 14,000 are already in catastrophic conditions – the most severe of the five food insecurity levels.

Acute malnutrition rates have reached an alarming 27 percent, and the region is “at risk of famine unless urgent steps are taken to prevent further deterioration” the WFP has said.

Aid workers have described the people they have seen as being “on the brink of death”, with people scavenging for locusts, cactus fruits, and wild leaves in order to survive.

Shelley Thakral, WFP spokesperson for the southern Africa region said: “Normally we see hunger driven by conflict.

“Climate change is something we are all responsible for and it’s something we can alleviate and address”

“It’s a really important wake-up call for all of us to really understand that if you are seeing wildfires in Europe or in North America and the earth heating up… the fact that a very hot day in some countries could [mean people elsewhere] lose their land, they lose their livelihood.”

Madagascar, off the coast of Southern Africa, is consistently ranked as one of the top ten most vulnerable countries in terms of climate change.

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This is the first time the WFP has directly linked the climate crisis as the cause of famine.

It further fears the upcoming “lean season”, when food stocks usually run low, will push even more people into dire situations.

The number of people facing severe starvation is expected to hit 1.31 million by December 2021.

Jean-Benoit Manhes, UNICEF’s Madagascar deputy representative, said: “Right now Madagascar is attacked all sides.

“It’s a perfect storm right now where an island which is already poor and vulnerable is going to be more poor and vulnerable, with little direct responsibility [for] it because [Madagascar is a] little producer of CO2.”

The situation is also being compounded by the pandemic.

To date, 40,000 cases of COVID-19 and 950 deaths have been reported.

Loss of tourism has significantly hit the economy as borders have remained closed.

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