"At a national level we could say that there has been, so far, sufficient rainfall. However, at a micro-regional level, the situation is entirely different, particularly in the south. According to the farmers, they would be very lucky if the April harvest could feed them and their families for a month," WFP country director Bodo Henze told IRIN.
Although the rainfall in late December 2003 and early January had damaged secondary roads in the south, it was insufficient for farming purposes.
The price of basic commodities, in particular maize and rice, continued to rise, while the price of potable water delivered to villages had increased fourfold, to about 2000 Malagasy francs (US 29 cents) per 15-litre bucket. Desperate villagers were hawking their possessions to obtain cash with which to buy food.
Reports of soaring malnutrition rates among children in the 18 southern districts affected by the drought were causing concern - official figures indicated that the malnutrition rate in the south stood at about 35 percent.
WFP said the agency expected a break in the cereal and pulses pipeline from mid-February. To minimise the impact of the break, WFP was purchasing some 500 mt of rice and 200 mt of pulses locally.
"Already regional purchases of maize and international purchase of pulses are being initiated, and should arrive in Madagascar by mid-march 2004," Henze said.
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