AMBOVOMBE, MADAGASCAR – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director David Beasley is urging the world to step up and take action after bearing witness to the invisible crisis enveloping Southern Madagascar, where whole communities are teetering on the edge of starvation.

“I met women and children who were holding on for dear life, they’d walked for hours to get to our food distribution points. These were the ones who were healthy enough to make it,” said Beasley from a nutrition centre in the region.

“There have been back-to-back droughts in Madagascar which have pushed communities right to the very edge of starvation. Families are suffering and people are already dying from severe hunger. This is not because of war or conflict, this is because of climate change. This is an area of the world that has contributed nothing to climate change, but now, they’re the ones paying the highest price.’’

Southern Madagascar is experiencing its worst drought in many years with more than 1.14 million people food insecure. Of those, an estimated 14,000 people are already in catastrophic conditions (IPC Phase 5) and this will double to 28,000 by October.

The gravity of the situation has forced thousands of people to leave their homes in search of food while those remaining have resorted to extreme coping measures for survival, like foraging for wild food. Due to the remote location of the communities and weak road infrastructure, few people have been able to access the area.

The Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) in children under five in Madagascar has almost doubled over the last four months, reaching an alarming 16.5 percent. Amongst the worst affected is the district of Ambovombe where GAM rates of 27 percent indicate a life-threatening scenario for many children.

“This is enough to bring even the most hardened humanitarian to tears,” said Beasley. “Families have been living on raw red cactus fruits, wild leaves and locusts for months now. We can’t turn our backs on the people living here while the drought threatens thousands of innocent lives. Now is the time to stand up, act and keep supporting the Malagasy government to hold back the tide of climate change and save lives.’’

The U.N. World Food Programme has been working closely with the Malagasy government and other partners since late last year to address severe hunger. However, as the crisis deepens those efforts must be intensified. Last week Beasley met with the Prime Minister and senior officials to identify immediate and long-term solutions to this crisis.

The U.N. World Food Programme needs $78.6 million dollars to provide lifesaving food in the next lean season in order to stop a preventable tragedy from unfolding before our eyes.

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High resolution photos available here.

Video footage of 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.

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Pressing need to upscale both food aid and agricultural livelihoods assistance to head off a worst-case scenario

ANTANANARIVO, MADAGASCAR: With each day that passes, more lives are at stake as hunger tightens its grip in southern Madagascar. This is the stark warning from two United Nations agencies, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), as they seek to draw international attention to a humanitarian crisis that risks being invisible.

Around 1.14 million people in the south of Madagascar are facing high levels of acute food insecurity, of which nearly 14,000 people are in ‘Catastrophe’ (Phase 5 – the highest in the five-step scale of the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC).

This is the first time that people have been recorded in Phase 5 in Madagascar since the IPC methodology was introduced in 2016. Unless urgent action is taken now, the number of people in the ‘Catastrophe’ category is expected to double over the next lean season starting in October 2021.

Drought, sandstorms, plant and animal pests and diseases, and the impact of COVID-19 have caused up to three-quarters of the population in the worst affected Amboasary Atsimo district to face dire consequences, and global acute malnutrition rates have crossed an alarming 27 percent causing irreversible damage to children.

“The issue is no longer about how bad it is – it is extremely bad. Children are starving, children are dying. I met a mother with an 8-month-old child who looked like he was only 2 months old. She had already lost her older child,” said U.N. World Food Programme Senior Director of Operations Amer Daoudi who recently visited one of the worst-affected areas, Sihanamaro. “We are already witnessing whole villages shutting down and moving to urban centres. This puts additional pressure on an already fragile situation.”

The worst drought in four decades, which has been building over three consecutive years, has wiped out harvests and hampered people’s access to food. This comes on top of years of deforestation and resulting erosion — now compounded by climate change — which have devastated the environment and unprecedented sandstorms have transformed large swathes of arable land into wasteland.

The 2019/20 agricultural season saw a dramatic decrease in food production. This was then aggravated by another year of poor rainfall in 2020/2021 which was the fifth year of below average rains in the island’s semi-arid South.

The 2021 harvest of crops like rice, maize, cassava and grains is expected to be less than half the five-year average, laying the ground for a prolonged and severe lean season, starting in October 2021.

“A counter-intuitive fact is that 95 percent of people facing acute food insecurity in southern Madagascar live on agriculture, livestock and fishing. Years of poor harvests driven by drought upon drought, and weather-related damages to fishing, have pushed people to the brink. We must take urgent action to keep livestock alive and provide seeds, irrigation, tools and fishing gear to rapidly boost local food production and availability — but cannot neglect the need to build more climate-resilient agricultural livelihoods for the longer term,” said FAO’s Director of Emergencies and Resilience, Dominique Burgeon.

Given the significant loss of livelihoods and reduced access to food for vulnerable households, providing farming communities with seeds, tools and other essential inputs is vital to kickstart local food production, generate income and build resilience. This support to farming and rural livelihoods complements emergency food and prevents families from selling their productive assets such as farming equipment and even cooking utensils just to survive.

Resources urgently needed to save lives

Humanitarian food stocks in Madagascar are running low. The U.N. World Food Programme is bringing supplies in but access to the worst affected areas is being hampered by poor infrastructure and weak road networks. COVID-19 restrictions have halted all flights into the island nation meaning critical humanitarian cargo is limited to access by boat and lead times for turning donations into humanitarian aid has increased sharply.

Since October 2020, the Government and the U.N. World Food Programme have been progressively assisting around 750,000 people through general food distributions combined with distribution of supplementary food for the prevention of moderate acute malnutrition in children under five as well as pregnant and nursing women. But the food insecurity crisis has been growing fast and this current support is not enough to offset the impact and the risk of famine. The U.N. World Food Programme urgently needs $74 million over the next six months to avert disaster in southern Madagascar.

The Government and FAO have meanwhile supported the livelihoods of around 20,000 farming families (around 160,000 people) with fast-growing vegetable seed packs as well as training in drought-resilient farming strategies and post-harvest loss reduction. At the same time, FAO has distributed feed and health kits to keep poultry, goats and sheep alive. Even a small increase in household food production can make a major difference for at-risk families, and such support must be significantly scaled up.

FAO urgently needs $40 million to reach an additional 225,000 farming households with life-saving support through the coming lean season until the end of the year.

The FAO-U.N. World Food Programme warning issued today comes amid rising international concern over surging levels of acute food insecurity, with the recent Global Report on Food Crises adding to the sense of urgency. Responding to UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ call for international solidarity to #FightFamine this year, FAO and the U.N. World Food Programme have called for $ 5.5 billion in urgent funding for humanitarian food aid and livelihoods support.


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ANTANANARIVO, MADAGASCAR – The unrelenting drought in southern Madagascar is forcing hundreds of thousands of people to the brink of famine, warns the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP). With acute malnutrition rates continuing to rise, urgent action is required to address this unfolding humanitarian crisis.

Most districts in the South are in the grip of a nutrition emergency with Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) in children under five almost doubling over the last four months, touching an alarming 16.5 percent, as per a recent assessment conducted by the Ministry of Health. Worst affected is the district of Ambovombe where GAM has crossed 27 percent, putting the lives of many children at risk. Children with acute malnutrition are four times more likely to die than healthy children.

“The scale of the catastrophe is beyond belief. If we don’t reverse this crisis, if we don’t get food to the people in the south of Madagascar, families will starve and lives will be lost,” said the U.N. World Food Programme’s Senior Director of Operations, Amer Daoudi who today visited one of the worst affected areas, Sihanamaro, accompanied by a high-level delegation of ambassadors and senior government officials.

“We have witnessed heartbreaking scenes of severely malnourished children and starving families. We need the money and resources now to help the people of Madagascar.”

The U.N. World Food Programme needs $74 million for the next six months to save the lives in southern Madagascar and prevent a catastrophe. Following alarm calls received from Amboasary district on the severity of the food crisis, the U.N. World Food Programme has been progressively assisting up to 750,000 people through food and cash distributions each month.

Consecutive years of drought in the South have left at least 1.35 million people in need of emergency food and nutrition assistance. The situation has been critical since September 2020, the start of the lean season when families had already depleted their food supplies and eaten their vital seed stocks, leaving nothing for the November/December 2020 planting season. Currently, up to 80 percent of the population in certain areas in the south is resorting to desperate survival measures such as eating locusts, raw red cactus fruits or wild leaves.

The 2021 harvest prospects are poor, with the failure of the rains during the last planting season indicating another failed harvest and as a result a longer tougher lean season (from October 2021 to March 2022). Food production in 2021 is expected to be less than 40 percent of the last five-year average, making it harder for communities on the brink of survival to feed themselves.

Semi-arid conditions in southern Madagascar, combined with high levels of soil erosion, deforestation and unprecedented drastic sandstorms, have covered croplands and pasture with sand and transformed arable land into wasteland across the region.

Please find images of the situation in southern 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 and @wfp_media

ANTANANARIVO – Three consecutive years of drought coupled with a sharp recession triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic will leave a third of the population in Southern Madagascar struggling to put food on the table. With severe malnutrition rates continuing to spiral and many children forced to beg in order to help their families eat, urgent action is required to prevent a humanitarian crisis.

With drought conditions persisting into 2021 and a poor last harvest, weary communities have few resources to fall back on and many have had to leave their homes in search of food and work. Some 1.35 million people are projected to be food insecure – 35% of the region’s population. The figure is nearly double what it was in the same period last year.

The COVID-19 pandemic has added to the hardship, causing seasonal employment to dry up. Many families relied on this income to get through the lean season, which peaks between January and April.

“To survive, families are eating tamarind fruit mixed with clay,” says Moumini Ouedraogo, United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) Representative in Madagascar. “We can’t face another year like this. With no rain and a poor harvest, people will face starvation. No one should have to live like this.”

Children are worst affected by the food crisis and most of them have dropped out of schools to beg for food in the streets. A U.N. World Food Programme assessment in Amboasary in October 2020 found that three out of four children are absent from school – mostly to help their parents forage for food.

The prevalence of Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) in children under 5 in the three most affected regions (Androy, Anôsy and Atsimo Andrefana) stands at 10.7%. This is the second highest rate in the East and Southern Africa region. The most recent projections put the number of children likely to suffer from acute malnutrition at more than 135,000, with more than 27,000 of these being classified as severe.

The U.N. World Food Programme currently provides food assistance for almost 500,000 severely food-insecure people in the nine hardest hit districts in the South. Given the rapidly deteriorating situation, by June 2021, the U.N. World Food Programme intends to scale up its assistance to reach almost 900,000 of those most vulnerable. However, support will be needed for struggling families well beyond the current lean season.

The U.N. World Food Programme urgently needs $35 million to fund lifesaving food and cash distributions and malnutrition treatment programs. This also includes emergency school feeding for 150,000 children to ensure they can stay in school and build a more secure future.

Broadcast quality video available here.

High-resolution photos available here.

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The U.N. 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; @WFP_Africa; @PAM_Madagascar

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