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 Hunger is on the rise in southern Madagascar due to consecutive years of drought,  affecting half the region’s population, or 1.5 million people, and forcing most families to eat insects, the World Food Programme (WFP) reported

"If we had something to eat, if our saliva was enough, we would never have eaten that. But it's true that we didn't know that white clay was edible before. We tried to mix it and it worked", Dame Zafendraza, a charcoal producer said.

In a nearby village of Ankilomarovahetsy, 9 people starved to death in September. Toharano is a housewife. She says she's quite certain that the death of her children was due to the famine.

"My children didn't eat for three days and then died, because I, their mother, did not manage to feed them. I'm sure it was the famine that killed them. It's not something else, it's not the disease, but famine. I left early in the morning and came back in the evening, and I saw the body of my child with his eyes open", she said.

In the drought-hit south of Madagascar, people are forced to fill their bellies with white clay mixed with tamarind to cope with famine. More than a year of no rain is slowing leading locals to the brink of famine. The staple food like cactus fruit cannot be produced because of the drought.  The World Food Program says hundreds of thousands of people in southern Madagascar are in the grips of a hunger emergency brought on by consecutive years of drought and ruined harvests. Three years of consecutive drought have wiped out Madagascar’s harvests and driven desperately hungry people to fall back on extreme measures to put food on their tables. The World Food Program says hunger has spread across 10 districts in southern Madagascar.  It says one-and-one-half-million people, or half the region’s population, are struggling to feed themselves.  It says women and children are most affected and in need of immediate food and nutrition assistance.WFP spokesman Tomson Phiri says Madagascar has the world’s highest stunting rate, a condition that impairs a child’s growth and physical and mental development.  He says nearly half of children under the age of five suffer from chronic malnutrition."As hunger numbers rise, so does the proportion of families who are resorting to crisis coping mechanisms," said Phiri . "The majority of them are having to eat bugs.  They are selling off life-saving livelihoods, assets, farm implements, kitchen utensils.”  

WFP has described the situation as “extremely worrying”.  


A few kilometres away in the town of Beraketa, global charity Action Against Hunger (ACF) has put up a centre in partnership with the WFP. The centre caters for around 50 severely malnourished children and 100 other patients every week. The children are at risk of death, especially if malnutrition is complicated by diarrhoea, respiratory infections or malaria.

While droughts are not uncommon in the area, this dry spell has been compounded by climate impact. The WFP's Mbainaissem said "for three years in some communities, two in others, there has been no rain."

Rising insecurity and livestock thefts have exacerbated poverty and complicated humanitarian relief efforts. The government has deployed the military to distribute food and first aid in the area. In October, President Andry Rajoelina, his wife and son gave out rations in villages. The local head of the WFP Mbainaissem has warned of a disaster if emergency food assistance are not provided.


As part of its drought response, WFP began life-saving emergency food assistance in September, reaching more than 100,000 people in Amboasary. 

This support has included in-kind food distributions but also hot meals for particularly malnourished children and elderly persons. Some 576,000 people in the nine other districts are also receiving assistance during the lean season, which runs through December. 

Mr. Phiri said given the gravity of the situation, the agency plans to continue scaling up operations through next June. 

“We additionally seek to help the challenges that are being faced by rural women, who often are prevented from owning land and agricultural assets, as well as face discriminatory customary practices,” he added. 

WFP is appealing to the international community for $37.5 million so it can continue response efforts. 


                                                                                                                   DATE : 13 DECEMBER 2020


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