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WFP: Climate Crisis in Madagascar Threatens Food Security


FILE - A boy sifts through debris on the beach, in the aftermath of Cyclone Batsirai, in the town of Mananjary, Madagascar, Feb. 8, 2022.

The World Food Program warns Madagascar will continue to suffer severe food shortages and acute hunger if it does not tackle the climate crisis.

Madagascar has been buffeted by four powerful tropical storms in as many weeks. The toll from the recurrent cyclones has been huge. The full impact of the last storm, Tropical Cyclone Emnati, which made landfall Wednesday, is not yet known. However, the United Nations says Cyclone Batsirai, which hit Madagascar on February 5, killed 120 people, and displaced 143,000.

The WFP says years of severe drought, recurrent storms and other extreme weather events have pushed vulnerable communities to a breaking point.

WFP spokesman Tomson Phiri says many thousands of people are facing extreme hunger because of widespread storm damage to agricultural land. This includes the rice crop that was just weeks away from harvest.

“Now cash crops like cloves, coffee and pepper have also been severely affected. And this is 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,” Phiri said.

Additionally, he notes a resulting shortage of food in the marketplace is likely to result in soaring prices in the coming months.

The WFP warns weather extremes will trigger runaway humanitarian needs if Madagascar does not address the climate crisis. Phiri says WFP staff is in a race against time to assist those affected.

“Our longer-term climate adaptation work helps communities to prepare for, respond to, as well as to recover from climate shocks and stresses. For example, WFP’s integrated risk management in the districts of Ambovombe and Amboasary last year reached 3,500 smallholder farmers with insurance, savings, and climate-adapted agriculture practices training,” he said.

Phiri says such programs need to be scaled up, especially for communities on the frontlines of the climate crisis. He notes there is little time to lose as forecasts predict another tropical system already is forming in the southwest Indian Ocean.

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