The humanitarian situation in the Grand Sud of Madagascar continued to deteriorate in May, as the most severe drought since 1981–compounded by sandstorms and pest infestations–caused substantial losses in agricultural production, reaching 60 per cent losses in the hardest-hit areas, according to preliminary estimates. More than half of the people in all of the Grand Sud’s 10 districts had limited or poor access to food, according to the SMART survey conducted in April and May 2021 by the National Office for Nutrition with UNICEF and WFP. The crisis also drove displacement of people trying to reach assistance in several districts, while criminality, especially attacks linked to cattle raiding, increased in Amboasary District.
Thousands of people are facing catastrophic food insecurity and being forced to take extreme measures to survive, according to the latest Integrated Phase Classification analysis. The drought prolonged the lean season, and the extremely poor harvest left an estimated 1.13 million people in the Grand Sud severely food insecure (IPC Phase 3 and above), almost double the number in the same period of 2020. At least 14,000 people were catastrophically food insecure (IPC Phase 5) in May 2021, with an imminent threat to their lives. Many people have been forced to sell their household belongings–including pots and pans–as a result of severe debt, leaving them unable to cook food or feed their families.
Acute malnutrition increased in nearly all districts, with Bekily and Ambovombe amongst the hardest hit. Humanitarian assistance, however, prevented mortality due to malnutrition, which decreased over the last months. In Ambovombe, acute malnutrition was affecting nearly 27 per cent of children under age 5 in April 2021, compared to 8.5 per cent in November 2020. In Bekily, malnutrition nearly doubled from November 2020, reaching 16 per cent in April. The situation is also critical in other districts, particularly Amboasary, where 14 per cent of children are acutely malnourished, and Betioky, with 12 per cent of children acutely malnourished, up just over 3 per cent less than six months ago.
The crisis had a severe impact on the health of communities in the Grand Sud, with dire water shortages leading to increased disease outbreaks, including acute watery diarrhoea. Water prices sharply increased and were up to 10 to 15 times higher in rural areas of Ambovombe District, compared to the cost in urban centres. As a result, families were forced to drink and cook with unsafe water, exposing them to disease outbreaks. Malaria has increased in several communes since the beginning of the year. COVID-19, however, started to decrease in May across the whole country, after a spike in transmissions reported in April.
In the first five months of 2021, humanitarians provided life-saving assistance to more than 841,000 people in the Grand Sud under the Flash Appeal launched in January. Over 829,000 people received critical food aid to help them survive the drought, although humanitarians were forced to cut rations by half to assist more people due to limited funding. Nearly 188,800 children and pregnant and lactating women received the nutritional support or treatment they needed to recover and at least 264,600 people had access to safe water. Partners also reached 35,200 people with prevention of gender-based violence and reproductive health awareness campaigns.
More funding, however, is urgently needed to ensure aid organizations can respond to the increasing needs and save lives in Madagascar. The Flash Appeal, which initially ran from January to May 2021, is being revised to reflect the failure of the last harvest and the prolongation of the crisis, which is expected to last until at least April 2022.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.