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Madagascar famine crisis is the first to be caused by climate change, says the UN

19 November 2021


Climate refugees gather in a camp in Ambovombe, the capital of the Androy region in southern Madagascar, in September

Climate refugees gather in a camp in Ambovombe, the capital of the Androy region in southern Madagascar, in September

REGIONS of Madagascar which are now in famine are the first in the world to be brought to this entirely by climate change, the United Nations has said.

At least 30,000 people in the worst-hit parts of the drought-stricken country (News, 30 July) are officially in famine, the World Food Programme (WFP) said. The Deputy Country Director in Madagascar, Arduino Mangoni, described a recent visit to an emergency nutrition centre in the south of the country: he met “silence, no joy; kids just staring at you and in a situation now, really skin and bones.

“I have been working with the WFP in several countries in this continent, in several emergencies, including DRC, the Central African Republic, in Darfur; I have never seen kids in the situation they are in,” he said.

The country is experiencing the worst drought in 40 years. Half a million children are malnourished, according to the WFP, but it estimates that 110,000 children are likely to be severely malnourished by April next year.

The Christian disability charity CBM is working in the country with vulnerable people, including people with disabilities. The charity has provided urgent assistance to 1100 families so far from its emergency appeal.

The chief executive, Kirsty Smith, said: “This is the first famine to have been officially recognised as climate induced, and it is very significant. There is nothing else this famine can be blamed upon.

“People are literally starving to death before our eyes; even insects are scarce, and people are reduced to eating cactus leaves. Families with able bodied adults are relocating, but those who have disabled people in their families are left behind.”

Ms Smith had just returned from COP26 in Glasgow, where she said that the voices of groups most affected by climate change were louder than before. People with disabilities are among the most affected groups, as they are least likely to be able to relocate. The exclusion from the conference centre of the Israeli energy minister, Karine Elharrar, as it was not wheelchair accessible, served to draw attention to the impact of climate change on people with disabilities, she said.

“We need world leaders to realise that some groups are particularly affected by climate change: those people who are least able to extricate themselves. There was more recognition than at previous COPs.”

Mosa, aged 45, is one of those supported by the CBM. Mosa has physical and learning disabilities, and lives with his mother. After the family’s crops failed because of the drought, they had to sell their home to buy food. The charity has supplied food and cooking pots to Mosa’s mother.

The charity hopes that its appeal will raise sufficient funds to give every vulnerable family enough to cover their basic needs for five months, and provide them with the ability to improve their future food security.


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