The situation in Madagascar – Press Conference (25 June 2021)

United Nations published this video item, entitled “The situation in Madagascar – Press Conference (25 June 2021)” – below is their description.

The World Food Program’s (WFP) Regional Director in Southern Africa, Lola Castro, said Madagascar is the “only country in the world” facing Integrated Phase Classification-5 (IPC-5) food insecurity without a conflict. She said, “So, basically we have people on the verge of starvation and there is no conflict.”

Speaking to reporters in New York today (25 Jun) via teleconference from Rome, Castro said southern Madagascar has faced five years of consecutive drought and people are losing their livelihoods, putting them in a desperate situation. She said in a recent visit with WFP chief David Beasley to the affected area, she saw the impacts of climate change at its worst in a place that has contributed practically nothing to climate change.

The Regional Director said the Malagasy Government and the UN were warned that there are very strong pockets of food insecurity and malnutrition and have been trying to mitigate the situation since September 2020. She said somethings were managed, but the humanitarian response has so far not been able to stop the deteriorating situation.

Castro said, “And the worst part is that we are looking at 28,000 people who will be in IPC-5 of catastrophe, and this IPC-5 of catastrophe – this is the only country in the world without conflict that has an IPC-5. So, basically, we have people on the verge of starvation and there is no conflict. There’s just climate change at its worst, affecting them badly.”

The WFP Regional Director said hundreds of climate displaced people fled to urban areas to seek assistance, but many others were unable to reach assistance because they are too tired and unable to walk to nutrition centres, which reportedly could take between two and seven hours to reach.

She said WFP aims to reach 700,000 people in the coming months, but facing major constraints, including the remote locations where those in need are, logistics, and funding.

Castro said, “So, basically, really the situation is quite dramatic and what is very clear for the whole UN, for the whole international community is that rapid action is very necessary, and we work with the government as we that, not only rapid action, but also building resilience and mitigating the effects of climate change in this group of people who are suffering and suffering really dramatically now.”

The WFP official said it was “very difficult to say the worst is to come, because it is already really bad. It is horrible. Look, I’ve been 28 years with the United Nations, and I can tell you I’ve never been back in the field, in the four continents. I’ve only seen something similar once. And this was in 98 in South Sudan, what is today South Sudan, in Bahr Al Ghazal famine. When you see hundreds of people who are wasted, and they are not only children, but they are adolescents and the adults, you know something is very wrong. You know something is, sometimes may be irreversible for many.”

She said she would not use the word famine since the data is not available, but WFP has been using the term pre-famine, which is considered a catastrophe, with 510,000 people in IPC-4 in addition to the 28,000 in IPC-5.

Castro said, “People are basically eating cactus, eating leaves. And it is not like they eat that as a compliment to their diet. That is their diet. They’re only eating that, unless they get something from outside. And I tell you, those cactus and those leaves, I mean these are animal feed. And people are eating that raw and cooking, and this is the only thing.”

Castro said the UN and the Malagasy Government are launching a flash appeal in a few days for some 155 million USD and hoped that this appeal would gain more traction than the previous one.

Ahead of COP26, she said these regions that have not contributed to the problem but face the brunt of the impacts of climate change needs long-term support and investments in resilience.

The WFP Regional Director noted that Southern Africa is heavily affected by climate change. She said, “We are seeing the two sides of the coin. We have seen in 2019 these massive cyclones, that affected millions of people, that entered through Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Comoros, and now we are seeing the other side; huge droughts that are permanent and making the lives of people impossible almost in some areas. So, really, a lot more has to be done; more investment in these areas and working with the communities for them to find the new strategies that they can adapts to, and they can use to survive in the years to come. If not, the displacement is not going to be just to the urban areas inside the Grand Sud. It will go somewhere else at the end of the day.”

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