On March 21st, the Malagasy government officially declared that Madagascar is under the second wave of COVID-19 infections after the discovery of the South African variant and a recent increase of new cases and deaths. The moving seven-day average of new cases per day increased from below 50 from October to mid-March, to an average of 195 new cases a day in the second half of March. New restrictions were set in place including the closure of Nosy be and Mahajanga city borders to human movement. Despite the distribution of low-cost rice in some urban areas, prices of main staple food remain above the five-year average and income-earning opportunities are still below normal.
The NVAC carried out the EDCASA (Survey on the start of the agricultural campaign and on food security) in February 2021. Preliminary results show that rainfall deficits severely reduced the main 2020 staple food harvest as well as the green/early harvest expected in January and February 2021. In addition, the drought reduced the size and body condition of livestock (cattle, goat, poultry, sheep) compared to the five-year average. Thus, access to food and income for poor and middle households is lower than usual while food prices remain above average. Most poor households are forced to reduce the quantity, frequency, and quality of their diets by consuming almost exclusively atypical wild foods. Between May and September 2021, EDCASA results project that across the south, the main maize and tuber harvest will reduce by more than 50 percent compared to the five-year average.
In February, according to EDCASA, more than a third of households in southern districts had a poor food consumption score, except in the districts of Betioky, Betroka, and Tulear II, which have functional hydro-agricultural infrastructure and are less impacted by the drought. Conversely, in the Androy region and in the districts of Amboasary and Ampanihy, 95 percent of households were forced to adopt food based coping strategies, and more than 75 percent had to adopt crisis or emergency livelihood based coping strategies. The most severe of these strategies is the sale of land, other productive assets, or last livestock in order to have the financial means to migrate to urban areas, such as Toliara, Tamatave, or Fort-Dauphin.
Across the south, food distribution resumed at the end of February and is expected to continue until the end of April. Food distribution is expected to reach more than 25 percent of households in the districts of Ambovombe, Ampanihy, and more than 50 percent of households in the MG26 (Amboasary region) as well as in the four communes of Fort-Dauphin (MG24) and cover 50 percent of caloric needs. With limited income agriculture and pastoral-based income earning opportunities, reduced food availability, and high food prices, households in these areas are facing Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) acute food insecurity outcomes between March and May. However, given the low production expected between June and September, these areas will likely return to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity outcomes. In the other areas of MG23, MG24, and MG25 where the food assistance rate does not cover more than 25 percent of households and access to food and income will remain lower than usual despite the harvest period, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity outcomes are expected from March to September.