Madagascar on Brink of Climate-Induced Famine, UN Warns

The United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP) warned on November 2 that climate change was pushing millions of people in Madagascar toward famine, with many already eating “locusts and wild leaves in a desperate attempt to survive.”

The organization issued the fresh warning as world leaders met in Glasgow, Scotland, at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, but said it had already “been ringing the alarm bells over the climate-induced hunger crisis” in the country.

“As climate talks get underway in Glasgow, families in Southern Madagascar, where climate is driving famine-like conditions, brace themselves for yet another harsh year ahead as the ongoing drought shows no signs of abating, signaling deteriorating hunger,” WFP wrote. “Severe hunger has touched over 1.1 million people with 14,000 of them one step away from famine,” it continued.

After consecutive years of drought, food sources relied upon by families had entirely disappeared, forcing many people to survive by “eating locusts, wild leaves, and cactus leaves which are usually fed to cattle,” WFP said.

This footage, taken by WFP at locations in Southern Madagascar between October 12 and 15, depicts dry, dusty conditions, children being checked for malnourishment at a WFP-run health center, people digging for water in a dried-out riverbed, and a woman, named as Masy Celestinea, picking cactus flowers to eat. Celestinea’s eight-month-old son had already died due to a build-up of cactus seeds in his stomach, WFP said.

WFP said it asked Celestinea “what message she would have for leaders of industrialized countries” who were meeting at COP26. According to a translation provided by WFP, she replied: “You know, the forest has its life, the human being has its life, the forest has its blood, and all of us human beings too. I have a sad heart because the rain does not fall anymore, and Madagascar is a victim of it. I have a sad heart because the rain does not fall. There is not even dew, but just high winds blowing."

WFP stressed that children were the most vulnerable, with malnutrition in children under five expected to quadruple to more than 500,000 by April. WFP Chief of Nutrition Innovative Financing Anna Horner, seen after 4:40 in the video testing children for malnutrition, said many of the children coming to health centers in the country’s south were "too weak to laugh or cry, let alone play and learn.”

WFP says it had been providing around 700,000 people every month with “emergency life-saving food as well as supplementary nutrition products for pregnant and nursing women and children,” but needed US$69 million to ramp up its efforts over the following six months. Credit: WFP via Storyful

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