Madagascar on brink of first climate change famine on earth

3 November 2021, 10:09

Over a million people in Madagascar are facing famine conditions
Over a million people in Madagascar are facing famine conditions. Picture: © UNICEF/Lalaina Raoelison

By Asher McShane

Madagascar is facing the world’s first climate-change induced famine, and the world can expect more of the same in years to come, the head of the United Nations’ food aid agency has said.

More than a million people are facing starvation as the UN says the region is on the brink of the world's first climate-change induced famine.

The UN said today that "famine conditions" are now present in southern parts of the country, due to the climate emergency.

They have scaled up ration and nutrition programmes which aim to reach over one million people in the next month during "peak of lean season," according to the UN.

Arduino Mangoni, WFP Deputy Country Director in Madagascar, said: "“I have been working with the WFP in several countries in this continent, in several emergencies, including DRC, the Central African Republic, in Darfur, I have never seen kids in the situation they are in.”

He added that the country was going through the worst drought it had seen in 40 years.

“The elderly people who we assist in the south, they keep telling us that this is the most severe phenomenon - the ‘Kéré’, they call it - since 1981,” he said.

David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Program, told the Associated Press in an interview that he witnessed "heartbreaking" scenes with people reduced to selling their household pots and pans to try to buy food.

Mr Beasley said crops have wilted and harvests are struggling on the island.

People have taken to eating cactus leaves, which usually are cattle fodder, the U.N. food agency said.

“Madagascar is not an isolated incident,” Mr Beasley said.

”The world needs to look to Madagascar to see what is coming your way and [to] many other countries around the world.”

He pointed out that Madagascar, a country of about 28 million people, accounts for only the tiniest fraction of greenhouse gas emissions in global terms.

“What did they do to contribute to climate change?” he asked.

He said the U.N. has been “messaging to all sides, including the Ethiopian government, the leadership, that this is a crisis” and called for immediate access for food aid.