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Drought, hunger forcing thousands to flee southern Madagascar– UN agency

Drought, hunger forcing thousands to flee southern Madagascar– UN agency

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has appealed to donors to boost their support for the agency’s relief efforts in Madagascar, where worsening drought and rising malnutrition rates have forced thousands of people to leave towns in the south to search for food, water and work.

“A dramatic crisis is unfolding in the south due to the worsening drought,” Bodo Henze, WFP Country Director for Madagascar, said yesterday. “About 80 percent of harvests have failed and most people have sold their livestock and even their cooking utensils to raise money to buy food, and in extreme cases, to migrate to other areas where survival is more certain.”

WFP has already been targeting 175,000 people affected by the drought in the south as part of a larger emergency appeal for Madagascar – one of the poorest 40 nations in the world, where the majority of the population survive on less than $1 per day – that was launched last November. However, the appeal has only been 52 per cent funded, forcing WFP to focus on only 55,000 of the most vulnerable people.

“We need a much better response from donors because clearly food needs do not go away if they are not addressed,” Mr. Henze said. “Furthermore, we need to get food moving now before more people are forced to leave their homes and before malnutrition rates start soaring in all districts and before we’re appealing for donors to fund a national emergency.”

The Government estimates some 600,000 people are now in urgent need of food assistance. An estimated 12,000 people have already moved from the district of Ambovombe and another 5,000 from the district of Tsihombe. In addition, an estimated 30 per cent of children in some areas are showing signs of moderate to severe malnutrition.

The drought has been exacerbated by lower-than-expected rainfall during the planting season. As a result, WFP now estimates it will need at least an additional 8,000 tons of food as traditional foods such as cactus fruit and reserves of cassava, manioc, sweet potato and maize have nearly all been consumed.

WFP’s November appeal included $8.1 million to buy 18,400 tons of food for 395,000 people affected by political crisis, cyclones Kesiny and Fari , as well as the 175,000 people that were affected by drought in the south at that time.

WFP has already sent 1,090 tons of pre-positioned food to the worst affected districts of the south. A further 4,463 tons, donated by the United States and European Union, are expected to arrive in the next few months. However, this will mean diverting funds from other parts of the emergency appeal to meet the needs of the south.