Monday, January 08, 2018


In Madagascar, nine in 10 people live on less than $2 a day, according to Unicef. Poverty is even worse in the dry south. 

Unicef officials say there are 850,000 people in need of humanitarian assistance in Madagascar, including 391,000 children.

Jean-Benoît Manhes, Unicef's deputy representative in Madagascar, called the situation a "silent crisis", which gets little attention because of the island's lack of geopolitical significance.

A series of droughts driven by climate change have left close to a million people struggling to cope in this southern African island nation. In the south of the island, where many people farm for a living, the rainy season is getting shorter and shorter, they say. Rains that once stretched from October to March now fall only between December and February. A recent El Nino event – a warming of sea surface temperatures in the Pacific that often causes drought in southern Africa – aggravated already dry conditions, 

Drought is increasing the risk of malnutrition and could cause deaths in children younger than five, half of whom already suffer from stunting, Norohasina Rakotoarison, a spokeswoman for Madagascar's Ministry of the Environment, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Soja Voalahtsesylvain, the chief of AnkilibeVahavola, explained, "there's no production because the land is very dry". "It's our everyday life now," he said. "We wait for the rain because our main issue is lack of water. We don't know when it will come.

"Because of drought every livelihood has gone," said Aova Soatoatse, a 43-year-old with 13 children. She said her family are now eating wild cactus plants to provide the bulk of their diet. Looking for cash to buy food, they sold their wooden shelter and moved into a smaller one – but the paltry money bought food only sufficient for two days. "Then the money was finished," she said. Now they live crammed together into a one-bedroom wooden shack.

"There's no food and people are hungry. We only eat cactus seed and fruit. We cook it and boil it with water," said Rafoava Ravaonimira, 65, another resident of the village. She said it was hardest to explain to the youngest children why they can only have one meal a day. "The older the kids grow, the more they understand. They start to understand aged six," she said.

"Families may prioritise giving food to the children who can work to help, leaving less to the smallest children who are already malnourished," Manhes said.

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