· March marks the peak of the lean season across many countries impacted by last year’s El Niño-induced drought (source: FEWS NET).
· The rainfall season has been continuing to bring rain to the Grand Sud. While welcome, these rains are still hampering the delivery of humanitarian assistance and the access to local markets.
· Some communities have opted for migration as a survival strategy because of the "Kere", this has affected until 35% of the population in the village of Beloha South (cumulated figure).
· Preliminary results of SMART nutrition surveys in four districts in the South show GAM rates: below 10 per cent in Tsihombe and Toalagnaro districts and between 10 and 15 per cent in Beloha and Amboasary districts, just below the emergency threshold of 15 per cent. No excess child mortality was observed.
· Except Betioky and Tsihombe districts, severe food insecurity rates decreased significantly compared with both the situation in March 2016 and August 2016. The national IPC exercise to be conducted in June 2017 will inform on the effective humanitarian situation.
As opposed to the below-normal rains received by the rest of the country, the Grand Sud has benefited from close to normal rains from November 2016 onwards, with good rains recorded until April 2017. March and April is the peak of the hunger-gap season in the Grand Sud, and all the districts are classified at stressed phase (IPC 2) in April/May by FEWS NET. At the national level, two main surveys were conducted in order to assess the food security and nutrition situation as planned in the emergency response plan.
Preliminary results of four SMART nutrition surveys supported by UNICEF in four districts and conducted by the National Nutrition Office with UNICEF and ACF-Canada, show a prevalence of global acute malnutrition (GAM) ranging from 13.9 per cent in Beloha to 8.1 per cent in Taolagnaro and rates of severe acute malnutrition (SAM) between 2.7 per cent in Beloha to 0.7 per cent in Taolagnaro. While none of the four districts covered by the survey has rates of GAM above the emergency threshold (15 per cent), two districts (Tsihombe and Amboassary) have rates of GAM above the alert threshold of 10 per cent. These results also show high rates of chronic malnutrition, which ranges from 31 per cent in Beloha to 47.7 per cent in Amboasary. Overall mortality rates are within non-emergency range except for crude mortality in Tsihombe. Signs of improvement of the nutrition situation are starting to show with decreasing trends in mass screening results and number of SAM admissions in the treatment facilities.
Preliminary results of the food security survey conducted in March 2017 in 8 affected districts show an evident improvement of the food insecurity situation compared with the situation in 2016 at the almost same period (February 2016) and in October 2016. Except the situation in Betioky district where the high rate of the Severe Food Insecurity is chronic during the hunger-gap season, and Tsihombe where this rate has persisted at 50%, all the Severe Food Insecurity rates are relatively low (between 3% and 40%). However, Moderate Food Insecurity rates are remaining high, this situation requires a continued support via the early recovery activities. A food security IPC is planned in June 2017, the findings of this exercise will inform on the real humanitarian situation.
Regular monitoring of the situation by UNICEF, in collaboration with the decentralised services of the Ministry of Education, shows that since January 2017, the rate of absenteeism of pupils in Anosy and Androy has continued to increase, most particularly in Anosy (from 19 per cent in February to 21 per cent in March) and Androy (from 6 per cent in February to 27 per cent in March). In Atsimo Andrefana, there was a small decrease in absenteeism, from 14 per cent to 12 per cent, for the same period. Children are often pulled out of school so that they can work in the fields or otherwise support their families as a negative coping strategy of families who are struggling to recover their livelihoods. Teacher absenteeism in the three regions declined from February to March due to the arrival of teachers’ salaries/stipends, but still remains high: 71 per cent in Anosy, and 43 per cent in Androy.
On the other hand, the long-term effect of the erratic climatic conditions, some communities have opted for migration as a survival strategy. The community in Andragnarivo (which is not targeted by humanitarian response) said that 10 to 20 people leave every week. In the fokontany of Beloha South, 35% of people have emigrated and in the fokontany of Avaradrova, 8 homes have left because of the "Kere". Migrants have unstable, low-skilled and low-paid jobs, and are exposed to different forms of exploitation and their children are not in school. The main challenges are remaining the same: i) limited access due to rainfall damaged roads, which has affected all sectors and all interventions; ii) weak transport capacity, making operations more costly; and iii) the sustainability of the local presence of the coordination office, as its running costs are still not covered.