Harare – More than 1.4 million people face acute food shortages in Madagascar as the island experiences its worst drought in four decades following erratic rainfall patterns coupled with high temperatures in the 2020-21 main cropping season.
According to United Nations agencies the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP), the situation in the south of the SADC member state is particularly dire.
WFP senior director of operations, Amer Daoudi, this week said: “The issue is no longer about how bad it is – it is extremely bad. Children are starving, children are dying. I met a mother with an eight-month-old child who looked like he was only two-months-old. She had already lost her older child.
“We are already witnessing whole villages shutting down and moving to urban centres. This puts additional pressure on an already fragile situation,” said Daoudi.
FAO director of emergencies and resilience, Dominique Burgeon, added: “A counter-intuitive fact is that 95 percent of people facing acute food insecurity in southern Madagascar live on agriculture, livestock and fishing. Years of poor harvests driven by drought upon drought, and weather-related damages to fishing, have pushed people to the brink.
“We must take urgent action to keep livestock alive and provide seeds, irrigation, tools and fishing gear to rapidly boost local food production and availability – but cannot neglect the need to build more climate-resilient agricultural livelihoods for the longer term.”
The 2019/20 agricultural season witnessed a dramatic decrease in food production, which was aggravated by another year of poor rainfall in 2020/2021 – the fifth straight year of below average rains in the island’s semi-arid south.
The 2021 harvest of crops like rice, maize, cassava and pulses is expected to be less than half the five-year average, laying the ground for a prolonged and severe lean season, starting in October 2021.