The crisis follows three consecutive years of drought as well as a deep recession triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The United Nations World Food Program (WFP) has appealed for emergency assistance of $ 35 million to fight hunger in southern Madagascar, hit by the coronavirus pandemic and a third consecutive year of drought.
“Some 1.35 million people are believed to be food insecure – 35 percent of the region’s population,” WFP said in a statement on Tuesday.
“As severe malnutrition rates continue to climb and many children are forced to beg to help their families eat, urgent action is needed to avert a humanitarian crisis.”
The economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the blow of a long-term drought, he said.
Seasonal employment has dried up, affecting rural families who have saved this income to help them get through the lean season, which peaks between January and April.
“To survive, families eat tamarind fruits mixed with clay,” said Moumini Ouedraogo, WFP’s representative in Madagascar.
“We can’t face another year like this. Without rain and with a bad harvest, people will face famine. No one should have to live like this. “
WFP is currently providing food assistance to nearly half a million people in the nine hardest-hit districts in the south of the island, and intends to increase this assistance to nearly 900,000 by June. .
He is seeking 29 million euros ($ 35 million) for emergency feeding and malnutrition programs, including an initiative to feed school children so they can stay in class rather than leaving to look for work or beg.
“When I can’t go begging in the neighboring village, we have to dig under this sand without being sure to find anything,” said Ikemba, a resident of Ambovombe district, describing her daily search for food.
“When we can’t find anything under the sand, we drink sea water. It’s bad for our health, but we have no choice,” she continued.
Malnutrition rates in the region have increased, forcing children to beg so that they can help their families buy food.
About three quarters of the country’s 25 million people live in poverty.