"The tropical depression brought some relief to some areas where the rains were reasonable. However, the problem here in the south is that the rains are always followed by strong winds that dry the maize that just stated growing," WFP representative, Bodo Henze, told IRIN.
WFP said as a result of the rain in late December some rural roads were currently inaccessible, making replenishment of food stocks difficult. The most affected area was northern Androy district in southern Toliara province.
WFP was conducting a rapid harvest assessment in the 18 vulnerable communities in the south, but noted that preliminary findings indicated that maize planted in October last year was not progressing well. There were also concerns that a lack of significant rains in the coming weeks could affect the April harvest prospects.
According to the UN food agency the price of basic commodities, in particular maize and rice, has continued to rise, forcing the most vulnerable households to reduce their daily meals. Desperate villagers had been hawking their possessions to obtain cash with which to buy food.
"People are applying distress coping strategies such as the sale of personal belongings, especially kitchen utensils. Pots are the most valuable, as well as the sale of family jewellery," Henze said.
The price of maize is expected to rise further in the coming weeks due to a poor December harvest.
As a result of insufficient donor support, WFP in July last year had to extend its emergency appeal for food aid to Madagascar until the end of 2003.
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