Suppressed rainfall since the end of 2019 has resulted in abnormal dryness and drought in southern Madagascar. Vegetation and water availability have deteriorated and crop losses, including that of rice, cassava, and corn, have been reported. Compared to the same period in 2019, conditions are drier currently, noted by a decrease in the availability of pasture and drinking water for animals. Relatively large-scale, abnormal herd movements have been observed from northern Amboasary to the coastal south or along rivers. Furthermore, a 70 to 150 percent increase in the price of the 20-liter can of water was reported between January and March in rural areas of Ambovombe district.
As a result of below-normal harvests, food access in the South is deteriorating. Maize prices have continued to atypically increase since December 2019 in the districts of Ampanihy and Tsihombe. Similarly, the price of dried cassava, the most consumed staple in southern livelihood zones, increased significantly throughout March due to exhausted stocks and fewer substitute products. Humanitarian assistance has increased in the South during the ongoing lean season. Government and humanitarian actors assisted more than 500,000 persons from December 2019 to March 2020 with food and nutrition assistance through emergency interventions in the South.
In many areas of the far south, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes currently exist and are anticipated to continue even in the post-harvest period, through September, due primarily to below average harvests. Outcomes are more severe in Ampanihy, though, where many poor households lack access to staples and are dependent on consumption of less nutrition wild foods. In this district, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are likely through the May, though improvement to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) is expected in June. In the Extreme South (MG 24), Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes are likely through May, as large-scale humanitarian food assistance is preventing worse outcomes. Elsewhere in the country, no major shocks are anticipated to negatively affect food security and Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are likely throughout the projection period.
In the northeastern Maoransetra district, Cyclone Herold, which hit northeast Madagascar during the second week of March, caused flooding of rice fields. The flooding damaged stocks and is expected to lead to below-average rice harvests in the zone. As a result, the district is anticipated to face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes during the March to May lean season, but improvement to Minimal (IPC Phase 1) is expected come June with increased access to food as staple food supplies increase.
Madagascar reported its first COVID-19 cases on March 20. As of March 26, 23 cases have been confirmed. International travel restrictions are in place and the government has enacted measures to limit the use of public transportation to control population movement, as well as some transportation of food and goods into urban centers. Populations, mainly in Antananarivo and Tamatave, the main port city, have been placed under confinement for 15 days, limiting the movement of people and goods. Food prices in Antananarivo increased on March 21, when demand sharply increased; fruit, vegetable, and meat prices doubled, while rice prices increased about 15 percent, within a week. Despite these initial price increases and movement restrictions, the government is expected to increasingly allow for the transportation of food and goods into urban areas to ensure availability.