UN World Food Program (WFP) Executive Director David Beasley on Tuesday appealed for $78.6 million to help address the dire hunger situation facing Madagascar.
The funds are aimed at providing life-saving food in the next lean season from September to March and are needed urgently because, Beasley said, it takes 3 to 4 months to move food into southern Madagascar.
More than 1.14 million people are experiencing food insecurity in southern Madagascar which is facing its worst drought in four decades.
Beasley visited the region and described the situation as one that pushed people “to the very edge of starvation” forcing people to walk “for hours” simply to reach a food distribution point.
“Families are suffering and people are already dying from severe hunger. This is not because of war or conflict, this is because of climate change. This is an area of the world that has contributed nothing to climate change, but now, they’re the ones paying the highest price,” Beasley said in a statement.
“Families have been living on raw red cactus fruits, wild leaves and locusts for months now. We can’t turn our backs on the people living here while the drought threatens thousands of innocent lives. Now is the time to stand up, act and keep supporting the Malagasy government to hold back the tide of climate change and save lives,” he added.
Madagascar has failed to pull in good harvests with the East African island nation suffering a series of droughts since 2014. In 2013, Madagascar was hit by its worst plague of locusts since the 1950s which destroyed crops and raised concerns over food shortages.
Earlier this year two tropical storms appeared to bring some drought relief, but the rainfall, combined with warm temperatures, created ideal conditions for an infestation of fall armyworms, which destroy maize.
According to the WFP, the number of people in famine-like conditions is expected to double from the current estimated 14,000 to 28,000 by October.
Malnutrition levels in children under five have worsened in the past four months, the WFP said, almost doubling to hit 16.5 percent with Ambovombe district being among the worst hit with a rate of 27 percent.
Madagascar is one of four countries facing famine-like conditions together with Ethiopia, South Sudan and Yemen affecting more than 500 million people.
(Story compiled with assistance from the WFP and wire reports)