Madagascar: Govt warns of extreme food shortages in the south

JOHANNESBURG, 10 March (IRIN) - Madagascar has declared a state of "kere" or extreme food shortages in five districts in the south of the country due to the devastating effects of poor rains.
Presidential advisor Didier Rakotoarisoa told IRIN an extended dry period had stopped agricultural production and made it difficult for people in the south to find food. Manioc (cassava), maize and potato crops were badly affected, he said.

Describing the situation as serious, World Food Programme (WFP) spokeswoman Annemarie Isler told IRIN that although there had been some rain in the south it had been scarce and people's coping mechanisms were being eroded.

"We have seen people's kitchen utensils, cooking pots, jewellery and clothing for sale on the market," she said. "Food is very expensive and the lean period was very poor."

Initial estimates are that 60,000 people are affected.

Isler said that in response, the government and WFP would conduct a joint mission to the south at the end of this week.

Meanwhile, WFP would deliver relief maize and a would also assist the government with distributing a consignment of maize in the area.

The government's declaration comes after a series of blows to the vulnerable in Madagascar.

In January two weeks of heavy rains killed 13 people and left 2,218 people homeless in the provinces of Antananarivo and Fianarantsoa. Most of the deaths were caused by the collapse of houses.

Then at the end of January cyclone Fari battered the island just as the flood waters were receding.

Two NGOs have started assistance programmes in the affected areas and WFP gave them the go ahead to use stocks prepositioned as part of a natural catastrophe management project, Isler said.

People there had relied on wild fruits like bananas and avocados during lean times but the destruction caused by the cyclone had robbed them of this backstop.


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