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

Kabul – Wrapping up a two-day visit to Herat, UNICEF Representative in Afghanistan, Hervé Ludovic De Lys, and United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) Afghanistan Representative and Country Director, Mary-Ellen McGroarty, sounded the alarm on the dire state of malnutrition and food insecurity sweeping across the country. Without reliable access to water, food and basic health and nutrition services, Afghan children and their families are bearing the brunt of years of conflict and the current economic crisis.

14 million people in Afghanistan are facing acute food insecurity, and an estimated 3.2 million children under the age of 5 expected to suffer from acute malnutrition by the end of the year. At least 1 million of these children are at risk of dying due to severe acute malnutrition without immediate treatment.

De Lys and McGroarty spoke with Jahan Bibi, whose 18-month-old daughter is being treated for severe acute malnutrition at the Herat Regional hospital. She brought her daughter to the hospital as she could no longer breastfeed her baby. “We have no food at home. We are selling everything to buy food, yet I barely eat anything. I am weak and I don’t have any milk for my child.”

With winter fast approaching, it is now a race against time to assist Afghan families also lacking access to safe water and health and nutrition services.

“As more families struggle to put food on the table, the nutritional health of mothers and their children is getting worse by the day,” said Hervé Ludovic De Lys, UNICEF Representative in Afghanistan. “Children are getting sicker and their families are less and less able to get them the treatment they need. Rapidly spreading outbreaks of measles and acute watery diarrhoea will only exacerbate the situation.”

According to U.N. World Food Programme surveys 95 percent of households in Afghanistan are not consuming enough food, adults are eating less and skipping meals so their children can eat more.

“We have huge concerns about the desperate choices families are being forced to take,” said Mary-Ellen McGroarty, the U.N. World Food Programme Afghanistan’s Representative and Country Director. “Unless we intervene now, malnutrition will only become more severe. The international community must release the funds they pledged weeks ago, or the impact could be irreversible.”

McGroarty and De Lys also visited a food distribution center in Herat city where they met with families struggling to make ends meet amidst drought and lack of jobs. They also visited a settlement for internally displaced families where mobile health and nutrition teams are providing lifesaving services to women and children, supported by UNICEF and WFP.

The two UN agencies are adding 100 more mobile health and nutrition teams. Already 168 mobile teams are providing a lifeline for children and mothers in hard-to-reach areas.

Since the beginning of 2021, the U.N. World Food Programme has provided lifesaving food and nutrition assistance to 8.7 million people, including treatment and prevention of malnutrition for nearly 400,000 pregnant and breastfeeding women and 790,000 children under 5. Close to 4 million people were reached in September alone. Additionally, this year, more than 210,000 children with severe acute malnutrition were provided with lifesaving treatment through UNICEF-supported services. Ready-to-use therapeutic food for more than 42,000 children and therapeutic milk for 5,200 children was also delivered to UNICEF partners in the past eight weeks.

NEW YORK – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director David Beasley has called on world leaders to make food security a reality for all and to build a stronger, healthier planet through better food systems.

Excerpts from David Beasley’s remarks at the Food Systems Summit in New York, September 23, 2021

“Now is the time to roll up our sleeves because, you know, children can’t eat empty promises. It’s up to us to deliver and make food security and nutrition a reality.”

“If we’re struggling today to reach the 7.7 billion people, imagine having 10, 11, 12 billion people on earth. […] It’s a lot cheaper to address root cause and give the people the resources they need to empower them, helping indigenous populations, empowering and inspiring the youth, all of this coming together to make this a stronger, a healthier, a better planet.”

“There is 400 trillion dollars’ worth of wealth on the earth today, and the fact that 9 million people die from hunger every year… Shame on us. In the height of COVID-19, billionaires’ net worth increase was $5.2 billion per day. At the same time 24,000 people die per day from hunger. Shame on us. Every hour the net worth of billionaires during the height of COVID-19 was a substantial $216 million per hour. Yet 1000 people per hour were dying from hunger… Shame on us.”

“When the Nobel Peace Prize Committee awarded the U.N. World Food Programme the Nobel Peace Prize, it was a call to action for all of us. My goal is to put the U.N. World Food Programme out of business. But how can we do that with the direction that we’re now going?”

“As Rome-based agencies, we’re not just leaders, we’re cheerleaders to empower the private sector, inspire those in civil society and individuals to make certain that we love our neighbor as our equal so that a child in Niger is just as important as a child in New York. Imagine… children around the world dying unnecessarily […] We’ve had 4.7 million people die from COVID-19.  At the same time, we had 16 million people die from hunger.”

“You see we got the expertise. We got the dedication of the United Nations. I do believe that this call for action will be heard by leaders around the world.”

Download photos of the U.N. World Food Programme’s work to improve and consolidate food systems 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 or @WFP

NEW YORK – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director, David Beasley, has urged the world to step up support for the people of Yemen, saying U.N. World Food Programme food assistance in the country could soon start to run out.

Excerpts from David Beasley’s remarks at the High-Level Ministerial Event on Humanitarian Situation in Yemen – New York, September 22, 2021

“There’s good news and bad news actually. The good news is that we were really in trouble earlier in the year and we had to cut rations, but major donors stepped up like the U.S., like Germany, UAE and the Saudis stepped up and allowed us to give again full rations. Because of that we averted famine and catastrophe. However here we are, we are running out of money and by October we will have to cut 3.2 million people in terms of their rations, by December 5 million people of their rations.

In a nation of 30 million people we reach 12.9 million on general food rations, 3.3 million children and woman that are in significant need of special nutrition and we also reach 1.6 million school children. So, our hands are full. There’s a lot going on, and the people are suffering immensely

We’re literally looking at 16 million people marching towards starvation. We need this war to end number 1, and if donors are getting fatigued, well, end the war. World leaders need to put the pressure on all parties involved to end his conflict because the people Yemen have suffered enough. They have no coping capacity, prices are collapsing in terms of the devaluation of the riyal, food prices are spiking. They don’t have any money left over to buy anything. It is a heartbreak, it really is.

As (UNICEF Executive Director) Henrietta (Fore) said, as (UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs) Martin Griffiths said many times, every 10 minutes a child is dying from lack of food, lack of nutrition. Do the math. Just do the math. That is a thousand people a week dying from lack of food and nutrition. We are predicting that if we don’t receive the funds that we need in the next 6 months — which is $800 million — when we start cutting rations, you could actually see that number go to 400,000 children under age five dying in the next year. What if that was your little girl, and your little boy? We have a moral, obligation, to speak out and step up.

These are our children; these are our brothers and sisters we need the donors to step up immediately otherwise children are going to die. Let’s not let them down. Let’s do what we need to do.”

Download photos of WFP operations in Yemen 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 or @WFPYemen

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