Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has called for an immediate and massive increase in food aid for people in southern Madagascar.
The region, according to MSF, is witnessing a severe malnutrition crisis which, in some places, borders on famine.
The worst drought in 30 years has wreaked havoc on agriculture, destroying food sources such as cactus fruit, normally eaten as a very last resort.
Also, the Covid-19 pandemic has had a spill over effect on the island’s economy.
Recent figures released by Madagascar’s nutrition surveillance system, UN agencies and similar organisations operating in the region show that 74,000 children across the region are acutely malnourished.
Almost 14,000 people in Amboasary, one of the worst affected districts, are now considered to be starving.
‘We are seeing totally destitute people who have literally nothing to eat and are teetering on the edge of survival’, MSF operations Coordinator in Madagascar, Julie Reversé, said in a statement.
‘Some have had to sell their cooking utensils and [do not] even have containers to fetch water’.
According to MSF, an average of 28 percent of children under five in some villages in Amboasary district are acutely malnourished, one-third of whom have severe malnutrition.
‘One alarming indicator is that the 2,200 people treated by MSF for acute malnutrition since the end of March include children under five, but also adolescents and adults’, Reversé added.
Due to a lack of resources, food distributions by the World Food Programme (WFP) and other aid organisations are limited to half-day rations, while some affected villages are receiving no food aid at all.
This is all the more worrying as access to food is likely to be an even bigger issue in the coming months, with little or no harvest expected in June and the onset of the lean season in October.
‘Getting aid to the people who need it is challenging. The island’s geography brings its own specific constraints and the semi-arid southern regions have many remote villages and few paved roads’, MSF said in the statement.
It is understood that it takes at least three days to drive from the capital, Antananarivo, to Amboasary district, and from there it can take many hours along tracks and trails to reach the most remote villages.
MSF’s Head of Emergency Operations, Bérengère Guais, said that travel must be made easier for aid workers by ensuring regular flights to enter and move around the country.
WFP had warned that drought in southern Madagascar was forcing hundreds of thousands of people to the brink of famine.
Urgent action, according to the UN agency, is required to address this unfolding humanitarian crisis as acute malnutrition rates continue to rise.
Photo source: iAko M. Randrianarivelo/MSF