“330,000 pe­o­p­le one step from fa­mi­ne in Ma­dag­as­car drought”

Times of Suriname - - ENGELS -

USA - The se­ve­re drought af­flic­ting sou­t­hern Ma­dag­as­car has left 330,000 pe­o­p­le on the brink of fa­mi­ne, a se­ni­or UN of­fi­ci­al has war­ned.

Three suc­ces­si­ve ye­ars of fai­led rains ha­ve left the is­land na­ti­on wrest­ling with crop fai­lu­re and a chro­nic lack of food and clean drin­king wa­ter, with agen­cies warning last month that ne­ar­ly 850,000 pe­o­p­le are ex­pe­rien­cing alar­ming hun­ger le­vels. “Three hund­red and thirty thou­sand are on the ver­ge of a food se­cu­ri­ty ca­ta­strop­he, next step being fa­mi­ne”, said Do­mi­ni­que Bur­ge­on, di­rec­tor of emer­gen­cies and re­ha­bi­lita­ti­on at the UN’s Food and Agri­cul­tu­re Or­ga­ni­sa­ti­on (FAO). “Pe­o­p­le go from one lean sea­son to the next, re­sor­ting to ne­ga­ti­ve co­ping stra­te­gies. Pe­o­p­le are ea­ting any­thing to fill their sto­machs, sel­ling most of their be­lon­gings, catt­le and land. It shows the se­ve­ri­ty of the si­tu­a­ti­on and the need for us to act”. Far­mers talk of the earth chan­ging; of fai­led rains and crops, and bar­ren land. Me­an­w­hi­le, agen­cies are figh­ting a des­pe­ra­te re­ar­gu­ard ac­ti­on. Uni­cef, the UN child­ren’s ag­en­cy, re­ports gro­wing de­mand for the high-ca­lo­rie, pea­nut-ba­sed pas­te used to com­bat se­ve­re acu­te mal­nu­tri­ti­on. “Pe­o­p­le are li­ving un­der ex­tre­me con­di­ti­ons. We are de­a­ling with a de­vel­op­ment cri­sis that has la­sted for de­ca­des now, wor­se­ned by El Ni­ño. For ma­ny, it is day-to-day sur­vi­val”, said Elke Wisch, coun­try re­pre­sen­ta­ti­ve for Uni­cef Ma­dag­as­car. Wisch emp­ha­sis­ed the need to build re­si­lien­ce in the disas­ter-pro­ne coun­try, whe­re food pro­duc­ti­on has all but ground to a halt as the El Ni­ño wea­ther phe­no­me­non exa­cer­ba­tes the ef­fects of the drought. Yet moun­ting any kind of res­pon­se is com­pli­ca­ted by hu­ge fun­ding short­falls. The World Food Pro­gram­me’s (WFP) ope­ra­ti­ons across se­ven coun­tries in sou­t­hern Afri­ca are on­ly 50% fun­ded bet­ween now and April, with the to­tal de­fi­cit at rough­ly $300m. The FAO is al­so strug­gling, with a $17.5m short­fall li­mi­ting the dis­tri­bu­ti­on of emer­g­en­cy pack­a­ges to 75,000 of the the 175,000 far­ming hou­se­holds in need. Ap­pea­ling for fur­ther do­na­ti­ons, both or­ga­ni­sa­ti­ons ha­ve stres­sed the im­por­tan­ce of the forth­co­ming plan­ting sea­son. “If we miss plan­ting sea­son, the need for food as­sis­tan­ce could go in­to March 2018”, war­ned Bur­ge­on.

Poor in­fra­struc­tu­re ma­kes it dif­fi­cult to get as­sis­tan­ce to re­mo­te are­as of the south, with jour­neys of mo­re than 200km li­ke­ly to ta­ke days by road. (the­gu­ar­di­an)

A child col­lects her fa­mi­ly’s drin­king wa­ter from a mud­dy pudd­le in the midd­le of the road (Pho­to: USAID/Ma­dag­as­car)

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