The World Food Program reports successive years of extreme weather events have plunged thousands of people in Madagascar into what WFP officials say is the world’s first climate-induced famine.
Five years of consecutive drought compounded by sandstorms, as well as cyclones, an invasion of locusts and growing insecurity have created what World Food Program officials call the perfect storm.
The latest U.N. Integrated Food Security Phase Classification or IPC assessment of the food situation in Madagascar found 1.3 million people are suffering from acute hunger. WFP Deputy Country Director in Madagascar, Aduino Mangoni, said an estimated 30,000 people are suffering from famine.
“This is basically the only, maybe the first climate-change famine on earth, if we look at the other current food crises, including famine-like conditions. So, South Sudan, Yemen, and Ethiopia for the Tigray, they are all driven by conflict,” he said.
Mangoni said hundreds of thousands of people do not have enough food and have exhausted their coping strategies. He said many are surviving by eating cactus leaves, insects, and locusts. He said people must walk 30 to 40 kilometers to buy water, which is becoming more expensive.
He said some people who have sold everything—their land, their cattle, their household goods are leaving their villages behind and migrating toward urban centers in search of help.
He said about half a million children under age five are suffering from acute malnutrition. Mangoni added an estimated 110,000 children are in a state of severe malnutrition and in need of special nutritional feeding to survive.
“Whenever one enters a nutrition center, the situation is heartbreaking, with silence, no joy. Kids just staring at you and in a situation of really skin and bones,” he said.
Mangoni said he has worked in several emergencies including Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, in Darfur. He said he has never seen children in such a lamentable condition as these in Madagascar.
In April, WFP was forced to cut food rations in half for 700,000 people because of lack of money. The agency began restoring cuts for thousands of the most vulnerable in September.
Mangoni said WFP plans to further scale up food rations for many more people from December until, what it hopes will be the next good harvest in April. To support this program, he said WFP urgently needs $69 million.