Southern Madagascar becomes climate change famine ground zero

Southern Madagascar has become the epicenter of the famine caused by climate change.

More than one million people have died of malnutrition as a result of the three-year drought that has ravaged Madagascar’s southern region, which is one of the world’s most vulnerable to the consequences of global warming.

Madagascar, far from the eyes of the world, is experiencing the world’s first recognized famine induced by climate change, as the United Nations has warned. More than 1.3 million Malagasy people are suffering from acute malnutrition as a result of a drought unprecedented in the last 40 years in the southern half of this African island country in the Indian Ocean.

“The situation is grave, and the weather prediction is not promising. Desertification, year-round temperatures of 45°F, a scarcity of water, and women walking 20 kilometers to fill a jerrycan with water to drink are all realities today “.. Last November, Madagascar’s Environment Minister, Baomiavotse Vahinala Raharinirina, gave this warning during her visit to the Glasgow Climate Summit (COP26), where she noted that this was not a new occurrence. “This famine has been occurring on a regular basis for nearly 10 years, and it has gotten worse in the last four years,” he stated.

The World Food Program (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned in May that 1.14 million people in southern Africa were facing severe food insecurity, with nearly 14,000 of them in “catastrophe” status, the highest level of food insecurity on a scale of five, according to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC). It was the first time it had been recorded in this position since Madagascar adopted the IPC approach in 2016.

According to the FAO, agriculture, cattle, and fisheries support 95 percent of the island’s critically food insecure population in the south. In recent years, below-average rainfall during the rainy season has resulted in a significant loss in the production of staple commodities like rice and cassava, as well as a decrease in the size and physical condition of animals. The drought has resulted in the mortality of livestock, worsening the predicament of the people whose livelihoods have mostly vanished as a result of the drought. However, animals aren’t the only ones who have suffered as a result of climate change.

The World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), both UN agencies, aren’t the only ones to issue a warning. Amnesty International (AI) detailed the effects of the drought on human rights for the people of Madagascar’s Grand Sud, where 91 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, in a report titled It will be too late to save us after we are dead. “The country is at the epicenter of the global warming catastrophe. For one million individuals, it implies that their right to life, health, food, and water has been violated. It’s possible that you’ll go hungry. It is already taking place “In a statement, the NGO’s secretary general, Agnès Callamard, laments the situation.

Furthermore, the FAO estimates that agriculture, livestock, and fisheries support 95 percent of the island’s acutely food insecure inhabitants. In recent years, below-average rainfall during the rainy season has resulted in a significant loss in the production of staple commodities like rice and cassava, as well as a decrease in the size and physical condition of animals. The drought has resulted in the mortality of livestock, worsening the predicament of the people whose livelihoods have mostly vanished as a result of the drought. However, animals aren’t the only ones who have suffered as a result of climate change.

One of the factors is deforestation.

According to the AI assessment, while forest habitat degradation has been ongoing in southern Madagascar for a long time, it has become more severe in recent decades. Deforestation may also be contributing to the rise of sandstorms, according to some evidence. Locals name the natural phenomena “tiomena,” which means “red winds” in Malagasy. While tiomenas can occur almost anywhere in the country, according to Rivo Randrianarison, a weather forecasting specialist with the national meteorological service in Antananarivo, they are especially prone to them in the deep south, which is a particularly dusty area with sparse vegetation cover and persistent rainfall deficiency.

High levels of soil erosion, deforestation, and “unprecedentedly severe sandstorms” have blanketed croplands and grasslands in dust and turned agricultural land across the region into a wasteland. Climate change, according to the same researcher, could play a factor because as temperatures rise, soils get drier, and when deforestation is added, “the odds of more seasons certainly grow proportionately.”

For a longer period of time this year, the phenomena has reached new levels of severity. These factors will have a significant impact on agricultural production in the future. “One of the major issues confronting the Malagasy is deforestation, and they cannot rely on rains that are unlikely to arrive. We need to figure out new ways to keep them alive by irrigating them in a sustainable manner. It’s inexcusable that a country that contributes less than 0.01 percent of global emissions is one of the most affected by climate change. States in a position to provide financial, technological, and technical assistance to a country in order to help it better adapt to the effects of global warming have a moral obligation to do so “Amnesty International’s Southern Africa regional office’s human rights researcher, Mandipa Machacha, said by phone.

The strong winds in the region are significantly hurting people’s right to food, according to all of AI’s interviews with drought-affected people, with the vast majority mentioning sandstorms as a primary driver of hunger. The organization paid a visit to Vahavola Amboropotsy, a community sandwiched between Ambovombe and Amboasary and partly engulfed by dust dunes blown in by strong winds.

The environment has shifted dramatically; the wind has not ceased blowing, and we have been unable to cultivate crops. We sometimes have to go to the market to sell our pots and spoons when the kids are hungry at home.

Joséphine, 60 years old, is a farmer, a livestock farmer, and the mother of four children.

“The environment has shifted dramatically; the wind has not ceased blowing, and we have been unable to cultivate crops. When the kids are hungry at home, we have to go to the market and sell the pots and spoons. This sand was brought to the zebu (cattle) corral by this tremendous wind. It was really windy. We couldn’t even open our eyes as we went out. Because we couldn’t see anything, even the cars on the road had to switch on their headlights. Joséphine, 60, lives there with her four children and is afraid that the sand may cover her home. Her animals’ customary enclosure had been totally covered, leaving her and her family in a condition of sorrow.

Beyond the South, there is hunger and poverty.

Climate change and drought, however, have far-reaching consequences far beyond the country’s southern border. “We’ve noticed a spike in the price of food from the south (cassava, sugar, zebu meat, etc. ), and if this impacts us, imagine how the most vulnerable people and their economies are affected. It’s a nightmare for them “In a video chat, José Luis Guirao, head of the NGO Agua de Coco, says. He responds from his office in Tulear, Mozambique, which is located near the Mozambique Canal in the country’s western region.

For years, the organization has led a project in Madagascar to tackle chronic and acute malnutrition in women and children. They share several meals a day at the Agua de Coco facilities, in addition to providing training and teaching the basics of good nutrition, based on lentils, beans, rice, eggs, meat, and fish, “all local and at a reasonable price,” explains Guirao, so that after completing the project, the beneficiaries know how to feed themselves and can do so, as far as possible, with the food that is closest to them in their daily lives.

Niria, a 14-year-old single mother of a five-month-old baby girl, lives with her mother and sister on what her mother can earn through informal employment, such as the so-called kirarrua in Malagasy, which entails cleaning her neighbors’ clothes and pays roughly 0.7 euro cents every two or three days. He can buy a quantity of rice, four small tomatoes, and an onion at the market in his town with that amount of money. This is definitely insufficient to feed a family of four. “It’s a whole survival strategy,” Guirao explains.

“What I like best is that I can eat, and I want to learn a lot of things, help my mother, and be the earner for my family,” Niria, who aspires to one day own a grocery shop, says.

Traditional fishing is the major activity in the community where the young woman hails from, and it is reserved for men and those who have the financial resources to own a boat and fishing equipment. For her, who never went to school, the only way to make a living would be to gather salt, which is a physically tough job with little financial reward. “They can’t cultivate either,” Girao explains, “since the terrain is extremely arid and the drought has exacerbated the situation.”

“We don’t think about how climate change might ruin people’s futures, especially women’s, when we talk about it.” Marie Christine Kolo, an activist and member of the Madagascar delegation to COP26, portrays Belani, a 33-year-old fisherwoman who, with her 12 children, is struggling to survive the lack of rain, unable to fish, and has seen, with no other option, how two of her daughters, aged 14 and 11, have married in order to provide them stability, despite never having attended school.

A future that, according to Environment Minister Baomiavotse Vahinala Raharinirina, is not that far apart from the rest of the island and the rest of the world. “In 2080 or 2100, the situation in southern Madagascar will be similar to that of three-quarters of the country: more than 20 million people. It may be a new concept, but we need more climate empathy, both between citizens and from north to south. And it’s not about sympathy; it’s about ensuring the other’s ability to project into the future.

Article Author Gerluxe Image: newslooks

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