In southeast Madagascar, malnutrition is on the rise in rural communities. People in the Ikongo district face acute food shortages after harvests were destroyed in last year’s cyclones.
Food insecurity is not new in Madagascar. It is one of the countries at most risk from climate change and faces extreme weather events at regular intervals. The southeast region was hit in early 2022 by two consecutive cyclones, Batsirai, on the 5th of February and Emnati, on the 22nd of February. They left a trail of destruction, uprooting trees and destroying crops, heavily affecting local agriculture. The majority of people in the area live off agriculture, mainly crops such as cloves, coffee, vanilla and bananas. With most of the crops destroyed, people lost both their food stocks and their sources of income. In the Vatovavy-Fitovinany and Atsimo-Atsinanana regions, almost the entire agricultural area has been affected including more than half of the food crop.
More than a quarter of the population in the Vatovavy-Fitovinany and Atsimo-Atsinanana regions are currently experiencing acute food insecurity. In November 2022, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) found that nearly one in five children screened were suffering from moderate or severe malnutrition at the onset of the lean season. This number is expected to rise over the coming months due to a lack of food combined with the peak malaria season.
“While communities in these areas already have very high rates of chronic malnutrition, the cyclones have tipped them over into an acute situation,” says Brian Willett, MSF Head of Mission in Madagascar. “Repeated climate shocks aggravate hardship for communities who have to build back every time”. Willett explained, “Many households tell us that despite careful rationing, their staple food stocks will be completely empty by February. This is worrying as the crop production from this year’s season is expected to be low due to little rain in the beginning of the season. And if yet another cyclone was to hit this season, it would transform this already dire situation into a catastrophe of significant scale.”