Tens of thousands of people in Madagascar have been suffering from catastrophic hunger and food insecurity due to the lack of rain in the region for four years. The United Nations believe that Madagascar might be on the edge of having the world’s first “climate change famine”.
Madagascar has experienced continued drought, one of the worst in the four decades. It has put the farmers’ communities in extreme poverty and scavenge for insects to survive.
Moreover, according to the UN World Food Programme (WFP), Madagascar has made it to the newest “highest alert” hunger hotspot list.
The UN World Food Programme’s Shelley Thakral said, “These are famine-like conditions, and they’re being driven by climate, not conflict.”
“This is unprecedented. These people have done nothing to contribute to climate change. They don’t burn fossil fuels… and yet they are bearing the brunt of climate change,” she added.
In Southern Madagascar, they expect 28,000 people to be in severe famine conditions by the end of the year.
David Beasley, Executive Director of WFP, said, “Families that rely on humanitarian assistance to survive are hanging by a thread. When we cannot reach them, that thread is cut, and the consequences are nothing short of catastrophic.”
“The road to zero hunger isn’t paved with conflict, checkpoints and red tape. Humanitarian access isn’t some abstract concept. It means authorities approving paperwork in time so that food can be moved swiftly, it means checkpoints allow trucks to pass and reach their destination, it means humanitarian responders are not targeted, so they are able to carry out their life- and livelihood-saving work,” added Mr Beasley.
Aljazeera reported that though famines are mainly a consequence of human-induced activities, the one in Madagascar has a different dynamic.
An increase in global temperatures has affected the monsoon of the country and disrupted agriculture. Climate change has caused a lack of rain in the island nation that has resulted in crop failure. Moreover, the WFP says they need $78.6 million to provide food aid to help Madagascar through the lean season, which starts in October.
On a recent visit, families showed the locusts that they were eating to the WFP team.
Tamaria, a mother of four, said, “I clean the insects as best I can, but there’s almost no water. My children and I have been eating this every day now for eight months because we have nothing else to eat and no rain to allow us to harvest what we have sown.”
Another woman, Bole, a mother of three, said, “Today we have absolutely nothing to eat except cactus leaves. What can I say? Our life is all about looking for cactus leaves, again and again, to survive.”
Bole lost her husband to hunger, and a neighbour is leaving her with two more children to feed, reported BBC.
Dr Rondro Barimalala, a Madagascan scientist, working at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, said, “With the latest IPCC report, we saw that Madagascar had observed an increase in aridity.
And that is expected to increase if climate change continues. In many ways, this can be seen as a very powerful argument for people to change their ways.”
Chris Funk, director of the Climate Hazards Center at the Santa Barbara University in California, confirmed the link between the global increase in temperature and the scarcity of rains. He affirmed the need to work on the improvement of water management.
Moreover, he added, “We think there’s a lot that can be done in the short term. We can often forecast when there’s going to be above normal rains, and farmers can use that information to increase their crop production. We’re not powerless in the face of climate change.”