The Madagascar is on the verge of encountering world’s first “climate change famine”. Tens of thousands of people undergoing a severe drought.
Madagascar is facing a drought that is recorded as the worst in four decades. The drought has produced severe consequences such as depleted farming communities and desperate families eating insects to survive.
Shelley Thakral of the UN World Food Programme says, “These are famine-like conditions and they’re being driven by climate, not conflict.”
Moreover, the UN predicts that 30,000 people are undergoing level five of food and scarcity, which is the highest level recognised globally. These conditions are said to get worse for the people in Madagascar as the lean harvest season returns.
“This is unprecedented. These people have done nothing to contribute to climate change. They don’t burn fossil fuels and yet they are bearing the brunt of climate change,” explained Ms. Thakral.
A WFP team visited a remote village in Fandiova, within the Amboasary district, and showed the people eating locusts as their primary food.
Tamaria, a mother of four shares her experience with the team, “I clean the insects as best I can but there’s almost no water.”
“My children and I have been eating this every day now for eight months because we have nothing else to eat and no rain to allow us to harvest what we have sown,” she continued.
She also said that her husband recently passed away due to starvation from hunger, so did a neighbor, and now she is left with two children to feed.
She said, “today we have absolutely nothing to eat except cactus leaves,” said Bole, a mother of three, sitting on the dry earth. What can I say? Our life is all about looking for cactus leaves, again and again, to survive.”
Madagascar often deals with droughts frequently caused by El Niño, however, experts believe climate change is directly linked to these prolonged droughts and the current catastrophic unfolding crisis.
Dr. Rondro Barimalala, a Madagascan scientist from the University of Cape Town in South Africa sheds light on the situation, “With the latest IPCC report, we saw that Madagascar has observed an increase in aridity. And that is expected to increase if climate change continues.”
He also pointed out that this is a “powerful argument” for people to change their ways.
Chris Funk, the director of the Climate Hazards Center, viewed the same atmospheric data at Santa Barbara University in California and verified the connection with “warming in the atmosphere”. He also reported that the Madagascan authorities should work on developing their water management system.
“We think there’s a lot that can be done in the short term. We can often forecast when there’s going to be above normal rains and farmers can use that information to increase their crop production. We’re not powerless in the face of climate change,” he added.
Currently, the impact of the drought is spreading to larger towns and cities too leading to more poverty, high prices of food, and children begging on the streets.
There is also the risk of getting hurt due to people fighting on crops and being scared of their crops being stolen. The future of Madasgarger is uncertain for its people, and the rise of food scarcity and poverty creates a desperate need for action.