The island nation of Madagascar is close to experiencing a climate-change induced famine, which has left families eating leaves and insects for survival.
According to the United Nations (UN), the southern part of the country is experiencing its worst drought in four decades, with more than 1.14 million people food insecure.
Of those 1.14 million, an estimated 14,000 people are already in catastrophic conditions (known as IPC Phase 5) and this is set to double to 28,000 by October.
In June, Executive Director of the UN World Food Programme (WFP), David Beasley, urged the world to step up and take action.
“I met women and children who were holding on for dear life, they’d walked for hours to get to our food distribution points. These were the ones who were healthy enough to make it”, Mr Beasley commented at the time.
“There have been back-to-back droughts in Madagascar which have pushed communities right to the very edge of starvation. 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.’’
The gravity of the situation has forced thousands of people to leave their homes in search of food while those remaining have resorted to extreme coping measures for survival, like foraging for wild food.
Mr Beasley continued: “This is enough to bring even the most hardened humanitarian to tears. 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.’’
WFP has been working closely with the Malagasy government and other partners since late last year to address severe hunger. However, the programme reports, those efforts must be intensified as the crisis deepens.
In June, WFP reported to need $78.6m USD to provide lifesaving food in the next ‘lean season’, a period between harvests, in order to ‘stop a preventable tragedy from unfolding before our eyes.’