Drought Is Drying up Land and Exacerbating Hunger

ANTANANARIVO – Tropical Cyclone Emnati, which made landfall in Madagascar on Wednesday, threatens food security and is an example of how weather extremes will trigger runaway humanitarian needs if we do not tackle the climate crisis, warns the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) just days ahead of the launch of a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Crashing into vulnerable communities already at breaking point, Cyclone Emnati is bound to deepen hunger including in southern Madagascar, which has been reeling from years of severe drought – another manifestation of the country’s vulnerability to climate extremes. Given how dry the land is in these areas, there are now concerns regarding the risk of flash floods.

The storms – Emnati, Dumako, Batsirai and Ana – have wrecked the island nation, causing widespread damage to agricultural land including the rice crop that was just weeks away from harvest. Cash crops like cloves, coffee and pepper have also been severely affected. In a country where the majority of people make a living from agriculture, an estimated 90% of crops could be destroyed in some areas of affected regions. The back-to-back storms have impacted market supplies with the potential to send food prices soaring and food insecurity spiraling in the coming months. Forecasts predict another tropical system already forming in the south-west Indian ocean.

“What we are seeing in Madagascar is extreme climate impacts – a series of storms and prolonged drought affecting hundreds of thousands of people,” said Brian Lander, the U.N. World Food Programme’s deputy director of emergencies. “While the U.N. World Food Programme is providing essential food in the aftermath of the storms, we need to be equally fast in thinking about how these communities are going to adapt to this new reality.”

As it did to alleviate the impacts of the other recent storms, the U.N. World Food Programme has stepped up to support the government-led response to Emnati with food and cash assistance, prioritizing displaced families in the worst-off locations as well as with IT and logistics support. The U.N. World Food Programme-run United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) is operating damage-assessment flights and an airbridge between the capital, Antananarivo, and hard-hit, hard-to-reach areas for aid workers and their equipment.

While the U.N. World Food Programme is in a race against time to assist those affected, our longer-term climate adaptation work helps communities prepare for, respond to and recover from climate shocks and stresses. For example, the U.N. World Food Programme’s integrated risk management in the districts of Ambovombe and Amboasary last year reached 3,500 small-scale farmers with insurance, savings and climate-adapted agriculture practices training. The program saw a $350,000 payout during the rainy season and a $157,500 payout during the dry season in 2021. Such programs need to be scaled up, especially for communities on the frontlines of the climate crisis.

Across the world, the climate crisis continues to drive global hunger. In 2020, extreme weather contributed to most of the world’s food crises and was the primary cause of severe food insecurity in 15 countries. The U.N. World Food Programme’s effective and scalable solutions, especially in fragile environments, help vulnerable communities adapt to the harsh reality of the climate crisis and preserve development gains.

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The United Nations World Food Programme is the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.

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ANTANANARIVO – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), along with the Government of Madagascar is providing food, logistics, IT assistance and an airlink to support relief operations in the districts of Mananjary and Manakara badly affected by Cyclone Batsirai that made landfall on February 5.

Before the storm hit, the U.N. World Food Programme had already started providing hot meals to evacuees in shelters in Manakara. Food prepositioned by the U.N. World Food Programme in Manakara and Tamatave, ahead of the cyclone, has started reaching affected communities, with additional stocks making their way to the areas worst hit. The U.N. World Food Programme is also supporting assessments to ascertain the full impact of the cyclone.

“The U.N. World Food Programme is working round the clock to ensure food and essentials reach those whose lives have been turned upside down by the cyclone. Our logistics and IT support to humanitarian partners is ensuring a timely and efficient response to the disaster,” said Pasqualina Disirio, the U.N. World Food Programme’s country director in Madagascar. “We are seeing severe damage including destruction of the rice crop that was just weeks away from harvest. Cash crops like cloves, coffee and pepper have also been affected in a region where the majority of people make a living from agriculture.”

  • The U.N. World Food Programme has distributed 10,000 hot meals in cyclone shelters in Manakara, since February 3, 2022.
  • Some 8.7 metric tons (MT) of prepositioned food has been distributed to displaced people in Manakara and 3.4 MT has been distributed in Vohipeno, while another 5.2 MT will be distributed over the coming days.
  • In addition, around 160 MT of food is being transported to Mananjary.
  • Cash distributions for nearly 1,400 households are ongoing in Farafangana.
  • The U.N. World Food Programme is supporting the government in its rapid assessment including an aerial survey. The United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) is conducting special flights in coordination with OCHA to assess the impact of the cyclone. UNHAS continues the air bridge between Antananarivo and Mananjary and other areas to support the response.
  • The U.N. World Food Programme will also provide road transport to partners between Manakara and Mananjary to enable relief efforts. The U.N. World Food Programme has already provided logistic support for relief goods such as tents, wooden pallets and tarpaulins.
  • The U.N. World Food Programme has deployed staff to assess IT needs of the entire humanitarian community in the areas worst affected. In preparation for the cyclone, the U.N. World Food Programme provided government authorities with IT equipment (smartphones and power banks), a vehicle as well as access to MoDA (U.N. World Food Programme’s data collection platform) in order to fast-track the registration and management of displaced people eligible for aid.

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The United Nations World Food Programme is the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.  We are the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.

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JOHANNESBURG – Lives, livelihoods, and harvest at risk as Tropical Cyclone Batsirai on course to hit Madagascar, already reeling from the impact of Storm Ana that hit in late January, the United Nations World Food Programme warned today. The cyclone is also expected to bring heavy rains to Mozambique.

“Frequent cyclones during the agricultural season mean loss of harvest, high food prices and increased food insecurity,” said WFP Deputy Regional Director Margaret Malu. “The people of Southern Africa have been on the front lines of climate extremes for many years now and each passing storm sets them back, resetting the progress made.”

Two weeks after Storm Ana ploughed through Madagascar, Mozambique and Malawi, causing heavy flooding, destruction to homes and public infrastructure and displacing communities, WFP is preparing for the impending arrival of Cyclone Batsirai, expected to hit the east coast of Madagascar over the weekend.

“WFP is on the ground, and we are ready to provide logistics support to governments and NGO partners to aid relief efforts and drones and boats in case of flooding. We have also prepositioned food to be able to quickly provide emergency food assistance.”

In response to Storm Ana, WFP, working closely with governments, has provided logistics support to search and rescue efforts, conducted needs assessments and organized food distributions. WFP continues its lean season food distributions, livelihood programmes and school feeding activities, where possible.

Cyclone Batsirai has the potential to derail relief efforts underway in the aftermath of Storm Ana that hit not only Madagascar but also Mozambique and Malawi, where the impact of Cyclone Idai in 2019 is still fresh in the minds of vulnerable communities who are struggling to build back their lives.

Extreme weather events like cyclones have become more frequent and intense in Southern Africa driving hunger and eroding development, sometimes in a matter of hours. The ongoing cyclone season (October 2021 to May 2022) is expected to see eight to twelve tropical systems.

WFP’s resilience programmes such as building dams and irrigation systems, drought resilient farming methods and rehabilitating forests support food security in the long term and help communities cope with future shocks better.

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The United Nations World Food Programme is the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.  We are the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.

Follow us on Twitter @WFPUSA

ANTANANARIVO – As climate talks get underway in Glasgow, families in southern Madagascar, where climate is driving famine-like conditions, brace themselves for yet another harsh year ahead as the ongoing drought shows no signs of abating, signaling deteriorating hunger.

Severe hunger has touched over 1.1 million people with 14,000 of them one step away from famine. The situation, already alarming, is set to worsen by the end of year with the number of people in famine-like conditions expected to double.

“The changing climate has meant that many families who were able to live off the land 15 years ago have now fallen into severe hunger. Families are scavenging for survival and many are living only on the food assistance they receive,” said Menghestab Haile, the U.N. World Food Programme regional director for southern Africa. “I recently met a mother who told me that she had lost her 8-month-old to seeds from cactus fruit that had accumulated in his stomach. The face of hunger in southern Madagascar is horrific.”

The drought has led to the complete disappearance of food sources leaving families visibly famished and resorting to survival measures such as eating locusts, wild leaves and cactus leaves which are usually fed to cattle. Vulnerable children are bearing the brunt of the crisis with severe hunger for children under the age of 5 expected to quadruple, crossing the half million mark by April 2022.

“The number of malnourished children coming to health centers in southern Madagascar has doubled compared to this time last year. Many of them are too weak to laugh or cry, let alone play and learn,” said Anna Horner, the U.N. World Food Programme’s chief of nutrition innovative financing who recently visited southern Madagascar. “The physical and mental damage to children due to malnutrition can be irreversible. It is heart-wrenching to see so many young minds and bodies unnecessarily suffering from hunger and malnutrition.”

Amidst the hottest decade on record, Madagascar has suffered from exceptionally warm temperatures, deficits in rainfall and unexpected sandstorms that have covered fields, left crops wilted and harvests well below average. By April 2021, 70 percent of the Grand Sud was in drought with food production only a third of the last five-year average. The forecasted dry start to the upcoming planting season means families will not be able to sow their fields immediately and their access to food and an income hangs in the balance. Adding to an already dire situation, a recent upsurge of locusts is expected to affect nearly 1 million acres of land.

The U.N. World Food Programme has been reaching around 700,000 people monthly with emergency lifesaving food as well as supplementary nutrition products for pregnant and nursing women and children. Moving beyond emergency support, the U.N. World Food Programme together with the government, is implementing long-term resilience building activities that help communities adapt to the changing climate. These include access to water, reforestation, sand dune stabilization and economic support like access to microinsurance schemes in case of crop failure.

In September, 3,500 households received a payout of $100 each to recover losses from the failed corn crop. The payout helped families sustain themselves despite a lost harvest.

The U.N. World Food Programme aims to scale up its response in southern Madagascar and urgently needs $69 million over the next six months to do so. The U.N. World Food Programme  is increasingly concerned about the situation in Madagascar and has been ringing the alarm bells over the climate-induced hunger crisis, one of the potentially many in the world.

Note to the editor:
High resolution photographs available here
Broadcast quality footage available here
More about WFP’s microinsurance programme in Madagascar here

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The United Nations World Food Programme is the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.  We are the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.

Follow us on Twitter @WFPUSA, @wfp_media and @PamMadagascar

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