Friday, February 04, 2011

Eating cattle-feed and dirt

In Madagascar 70 percent of Malagasy live below the poverty line. In the affected areas 300,000 children younger than five were at risk of severe acute malnutrition if action was not taken, said Bruno Maes, UNICEF's country representative. Around 90 percent of Madagascar's children did not have access to clean drinking water at home, and "Just over 50 percent of children are stunted as a result of chronic malnutrition," he said. "This rate is among the highest in the world - the situation is only worse in Afghanistan and Yemen."

About 720,000 people are facing food insecurity after a third successive year of adverse weather and an increasing "decapitalization" - selling off livestock and possessions as a survival measure - of the rural economy in the south.

"...we know people have already started adopting negative coping strategies such as eating their own seeds, and foodstuffs which are damaging to their health, and selling their goods... men are migrating from these areas, leaving women and children even more vulnerable," Krystyna Bednarska, WFP's country representative, told IRIN.

John Uniack Davis, country director at CARE International, which works to reduce poverty, said anecdotal evidence from the affected regions was that cattle normally selling for US$250 in the post-harvest period were priced at $62.50 in the lean season, or were being bartered for 250kg of cassava, rather than the usual price of 450kg. He told IRIN that decapitalization was being used as a coping strategy and "households are being stretched to the limit."

In parts of Madagascar's drought-prone south people have resorted to eating cattle-feed with many eating red cactus that is usually given to cattle, or tamarind mixed with water and earth.

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