Madagascar is an island country in East Africa. It became relatively more well-known after the animated movie of the same name was released, showcasing truly the immense biodiversity of the country. However, recently the country has been in the spotlight for unfortunate reasons.
Issues in Madagascar
Madagascar has always been frequently exposed to extreme weather conditions. In the previous year, UNICEF- the United Nations Children’s Fund- expressed concerns about malnourishment and malnutrition among the children there. In the mid-2021, an extreme drought hit Southern Madagascar, causing almost more than a million people to suffer from food scarcity and food insecurity. This drought was the worst in 40 years. The situation came to the verge of famine, with challenges for food and water for months; this extreme condition was caused mainly due to the lack of rain in preceding years. Rainfall in the area is never predictable, and there has been a problem with the rainfall being almost half of the usual amount. Since there was scarce rainfall, agriculture and farm products were affected, as were the farmers and people whose income was directly or indirectly related to agriculture. While there was an apparent financial loss, there was also no food because the crops did not receive the required rainfall, and thus the food crisis began from the base. It was reported in late June 2021, close to a month after the start of the problem, that children everywhere had abandoned schools and colleges and had started begging and scavenging for food. It was also reported around the same time by the World Food Programme that the country’s starving people had started eating mud to escape death by starvation. People had resorted to eating raw cactus fruits, leaves, locusts, mixing clay with fruits, swamp plants, etc. In some villages, people were also eating ash mixed with tamarind and shoe leather. There were instances of swollen stomachs and physical disabilities among children. These were declared as symptoms of chronic malnutrition. There were also naturally water shortages. The UNICEF installed a water pipeline to provide freshwater. However, it was later reported that while beneficial to most, this pipeline did not reach some parts of Southern Madagascar. Due to the distance and lack of proper roads, even the aid workers could not reach the remote areas to help the helpless residents of those areas. The people in these areas had been forced to walk and move more than fifteen kilometers to get water. It was reported on these sites that many of these far away residents reached the pipeline on their knees, but these were the only people who made it that far.
There was a steady rise in complete poverty and a clear decline in food for the citizens, especially in remote areas; this also came at a time when climate change was at an all time high, and famines and rising temperatures all over the world were causing a strain on the already scant resources. In addition to these appalling pre-existent conditions, the COVID-19 pandemic came as a blow on a bleeding wound. All of this had also caused an increase in the prices of the commodities. Those who had their livelihood in the tourism industry and parallel industries had no income due to the worldwide lock downs. In such a situation, a divide is automatically created between the fortunate and the less fortunate. The poor who are already begging for food and water cannot buy their necessities, while the rich and the influential people can stay safe and healthy. It has also been reported that many starving people had been selling their land and other valuable belongings to get some money to buy food. It was declared that Madagascar now had a huge famine and that help was needed from all those who could offer it. In August, the entire food crisis was termed as the first famine caused by climate change.
Help on the Way
It is a very critical time for the people in Madagascar; they are starving and helpless. The United Nations, the World Food Programme, and SEED Madagascar are among the few charity organizations that are working to help the citizens through building more water pipelines and food outreach programs, along with other things. Through their support and help, the situation can be eased and the people can be lifted out of the wretched crisis.