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Madagascar COVID, Hunger Crisis Sparks Urgent UN Appeal

FILE - Children shelter from the sun in Ankilimarovahatsy, Madagascar, a village in the far south of the island where most children are acutely malnourished, Nov. 9, 2020.

The United Nations is launching a $76 million flash appeal to be able to provide life-saving humanitarian aid for more than one million people in Madagascar threatened by drought-induced hunger and the growing impact of COVID-19.

Three years of consecutive drought, compounded by the COVID pandemic have created a hunger and humanitarian crisis in Madagascar. Seasonal harvests in the country’s Grand Sud region have been wiped out by recurrent drought in the last 10 years.

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs is urgently appealing for international support to help 1.1 million people in desperate need of life-saving assistance. OCHA spokesman, Jens Laerke, says they face huge and potentially life-threatening needs for food, nutrition, water and sanitation and medical care.

“The Food Security analysis from last month, December, also shows the alarming projection of more than 135,000 children under the age of five, suffering from acute malnutrition in the coming month in the Grand Sud,” he said.

Laerke said the COVID pandemic also is affecting a large part of the country and driving many people to the brink of survival. He said one in three people in the south are extremely short of food.

He said COVID lockdowns have destroyed the normal mechanisms people have relied upon to see them through the lean season, which runs from November to March. This is the period in the year when food is most scarce.

Traditionally, people would migrate to the cities in search of work during the lean season. Laerke said they would send their earnings home to sustain their families throughout the difficult period.

“With COVID-19, this kind of coping mechanism is no longer available because people cannot move and there are no jobs available. So, besides the direct health implication of this, the secondary effects that take away peoples’ normal ways of dealing with crises of this sort has also been undermined,” Laerke said.

If funded, the U.N. will have money to improve food security for more than a million people and provide safe water and health care services for hundreds of thousands of people as well as life-saving nutritional support for 300,000 malnourished young children.