Climate Crisis and the Environment

Madagascar: Climate Caused Devastation

Black and white photo of people go to the market with barrels of alcohol and then come back with goods
Izzy Rodney

If someone mentions Madagascar, our minds would most likely drift to the movie franchise, bringing us memories of joy and happiness. However, when we move away from the movie, do we actually know what is currently happening in Madagascar? Now it is not the time for laughter as it is said that Madagascar is on the brink of a climate change-induced famine.

Madagascar, an island country situated 400 kilometres off the southeastern African coast, is said to be on the verge of the world’s first climate change-induced famine according to the United Nations. This is ironic as famines are usually a result of conflict rather than something like climate change.

1.14 million Malagasies are food insecure

The executive director of the World Food Programme (WFP), Davis Beasley, explained that mothers and children are walking for hours in order to reach food distribution points, specifically emphasising that it was only those going who were ‘healthy enough to make it’.

The United Nations declared in a statement that in Southern Madagascar, 1.14 million Malagasies are food insecure due to a drought which is said to be the worst drought in four decades. There have been back-to-back droughts in Madagascar which have pushed communities right to the very edge of starvation’.

Despite this developing country only contributing 0.01% of global emissions, they are facing the direct consequences of climate change such as floods, droughts and cyclones – with the western world mainly being responsible for the cause of these disasters. 

For this particular famine, experts believe that climate change is responsible, as the rising global temperature of the earth is resulting in the country’s lack of rainfall. This increase in temperature not only causes the dry seasons to become drier, but rainy seasons to become wetter, with an increase in flooding further devastating agricultural production.

The Malagasy people are living on diets of raw red cactus fruits, wild leaves and locusts

As temperatures can reach up to 40 degrees during the hot season, families often have very little choice but to consume water from whatever source possible, causing an increase in waterborne diseases. Moreover, the COVID-19 virus has increased food prices whilst reducing job opportunities for the Malagasy people.

Due to the severity of the situation, the Malagasies are having to leave their homes to forage for food in order to survive, whilst some are facing the more dire effects and are dying from severe hunger.

The Malagasy people are living on diets of raw red cactus fruits, wild leaves and locusts. One of the worst affected areas hit by the famine is Ambovombe where it is heavily affecting children, leading to several thousands of cases of malnutrition.

The WFP chief and Malagasy government officials, including prime minister Christian Ntsay, met last week to discuss and arrange long-term solutions for this catastrophe. It was concluded by the WFP that $78.6 million dollars would be needed in order to provide life-saving food for the next lean season in Madagascar.

So, how can we help?

With the United Nations and WFP highlighting the severity of the situation, it is time to step up and help this awful situation. It is important that we act now so that more deaths can be prevented as it was only ten years ago in Somalia when around 260,000 people also died of hunger as a result of a famine. Mr Beasley recalled that ‘by the time the famine was actually declared – half of that number had already died.

It is important that we raise awareness with our friends and families about what is currently going on in Madagascar and if you want to help out further, there are several charities that are accepting donations.

One, in particular, is Action Against Hunger who is one of few organisations that are specifically working in the southern regions of Madagascar, providing treatment in healthcare and child malnutrition. Whilst this may seem like another attempt of someone encouraging you to give a donation, I urge you to remember the privilege we all have and how even a small bit of help can go a very long way.

Izzy Rodney

Featured Photo by Etienne from Flickr. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image.

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