Madagascar: WFP – Catastrophic Hunger Descending On Southern Madagascar

The head of the World Food Program said Tuesday that more than a million people in southern Madagascar are “marching toward” starvation, and some 14,000 are already in famine-like conditions.

“You really can’t imagine how bad it is,” David Beasley told a small group of reporters about the conditions he saw during his trip last week to the East African island nation.

He said people are barely finding enough to eat, and many are dying. The WFP chief described people subsisting on mud and cactus flowers and hundreds of emaciated children with ripples of sagging skin on their limbs.

“It’s something you see in a horror movie,” Beasley said.

The country has suffered a series of successive droughts since 2014, leading to poor harvests. Last year, swarms of desert locusts swept through East Africa. Earlier this year two tropical storms appeared to bring some drought relief, but the rainfall, combined with warm temperatures, created ideal conditions for an infestation of fall armyworms, which destroy maize.

“There is no conflict driving these hunger numbers in the south,” Beasley said, referring to the main cause of severe food insecurity affecting other countries. “It is strictly climate change; it is strictly drought upon drought upon drought.”

Families have sold their land, their cattle and all their possessions to buy food.

The scope of the problem is daunting. More than a half million people in the south are one step away from starvation. Right behind them are roughly 800,000 more. Of the 14,000 already in famine-like conditions, WFP says their numbers could double in the coming months.

Beasley said his agency needs $78.6 million to get 1.3 million people through the lean season, which will begin in September and run through March. And they need the money now because it takes 3 to 4 months to move food into southern Madagascar.