The UN World Food Programme on Tuesday appealed for 35 million dollars for Madagascar, where drought and a COVID-19 induced recession have doubled the number of hungry in recent months and malnutrition is escalating.
"Humanitarian crisis looms in Southern Madagascar as drought and the pandemic double number of hungry people," WFP tweeted.
"Severe malnutrition rates continue to spiral. Many children are forced to beg to help their families eat," the tweet added.
"The situation in Southern Madagascar is worsening with 1.35 million people in need of immediate emergency food assistance. The number has doubled since the same period last year," read another tweet.
"WFP urgently needs $35 million to help these communities."
The warning came from WFP's Regional director for Southern Africa and Indian Ocean States, Lola Castro.
Speaking by video link to journalists at a briefing in Geneva, Castro warned that a third of people in Southern Madagascar struggling to put food on the table.
Part of the current crisis is linked to Madagascar's vulnerability to climate shocks, a problem it shares with the southern African region, the WFP official said.
“The rains that normally come November-December, we only had one day of rain in December in the whole region. And the thunderstorms have been blasting…and destroying and burying the crops that were there”, Castro added.
“The result is famine-like conditions”, with 1.3 million people unsure where their next meal is coming from and 135,000 children moderately, severely or acutely malnourished, she said.
In the three worst-hit areas (Androy, Anosy and Atsimo Andrefana), over 10 percent of children under five are acutely malnourished, Castro said.
Many in Madagascar had to leave their homes in search of food and work, three-quarters of children are skipping school to beg so their families can eat, according to WFP.
Food scarcity has forced people to eat “whatever they can find”, Castro continued.
“Cactus mixed with mud, roots, whatever they can find, leaves, seeds, whatever is available," she underlined.
"And the situation really is more dramatic because this year also the funds have not arrived enough on time to really be able to procure food or to provide cash transfers to these people.”
The 35 million dollars WFP requires is to fund lifesaving food and cash distributions and malnutrition treatment programmes, the UN agency said.
The money will also fund emergency school feeding for 150,000 children to ensure they can stay in school and build a more secure future, WFP stated.
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