“The people of southern Madagascar are on the brink of a famine and need immediate humanitarian aid, according to United Nations food agencies. A three-year drought, exacerbated by this year’s El Niño, has caused harvests to continue to fail. And people are left with no money and almost nothing to eat.
Just over half the region’s population, about 840,000 people, is severely affected. And 20 percent of the population is in an emergency situation, according to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), a standardized five-point scale used by scientists to rate the level of a region’s food security. That segment of the population is in Phase 4, with Phase 1 denoting an abundance of food and Phase 5 meaning famine.
Despite its rich biodiversity, Madagascar is, in fact, one of the poorest countries in the world. According to the World Bank, nearly 60 percent of the population lives in extreme poverty and the vast majority live in rural areas, like the dry, drought-affected south. “Ninety percent of the population in the south is living under the poverty level,” says Jeanluc Siblot, the emergency coordinator for the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) in Madagascar. “Forty percent of kids are suffering from malnutrition.”