from MARIO RAJOMAZANDRY in Antananarivo, Madagascar
ANTANANARIVO, (CAJ News) – WITH acute malnutrition rates rising rapidly especially among children, urgent action is required to address an unfolding humanitarian crisis in Madagascar.
Minors are bearing the brunt of the worst drought in ten years in the southern parts as one of the world’s prominent island countries teeters on the brink of famine.
No less than 1,35 million people are in need of emergency food and nutrition assistance in the region.
Most districts are in the throes of nutrition emergency with Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) in children under five almost doubling over the last four months.
It is reaching an alarming 16,5 percent.
This is according to a recent assessment conducted by the Ministry of Health.
Ambovombe is the district worst affected by the crisis.
GAM has crossed 27 percent there, putting the lives of many children at great risk.
According to experts, children with acute malnutrition are four times more likely to die than healthy children. Malnutrition leads to a weakened immune system, leaving those affected particularly vulnerable to other illnesses.
“The scale of the catastrophe is beyond belief,” said Amer Daoudi, the senior director of operations at the World Food Programe (WFP).
“If we don’t reverse this crisis, if we don’t get food to the people in the south of Madagascar, families will starve and lives will be lost,” the envoy warned.
WFP is expected to secure US$74 million for the next six months to respond to the crisis.
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has been running mobile clinics in some communes since the end of March 2021.
The organisation is focusing on screening and treating people for severe and moderate acute malnutrition.
At the time of publication, it had screened 4 674 people and admitted 1 136 patients to its programe.
This included 831 children under the age of five.
“Among these children, about a third suffer from severe acute malnutrition, and two-thirds from moderate acute malnutrition,” said Anne Tilkens, MSF emergency medical coordinator in Madagascar.
The organisation has noted a rise in diarrheal and skin diseases.
“We also see patients suffering from respiratory infections and conjunctivitis. Currently, we are noticing an increase in cases of malaria,” Tilkens said.
Southern Madagascar’s 2021 harvest prospects are poor.
Food production is expected to be less than 40 percent of the last five-year average.
Southern Madagascar recorded below-average cumulative rainfall between October 2020 and February 2021, particularly in the Alaotra Mangoro, Analamanga, Haute Matsiatra and Ihorombe regions.
Almost 80 percent of the Malagasy population of 28 million is engaged in agriculture, dominated by rain-fed small-scale subsistence farming.
– CAJ News