Coping With El Nino's Devastating Impact On Southern Madagascar

Following three years of consecutive drought in the semi-arid south of Madagascar, it is estimated that 1.2 million people will be food insecure at the height of the lean season later this year and into 2017 – this number includes 600,000 in immediate need of humanitarian assistance. This report comes from the Androy region.  

In the village of Soamanitse in the district of Beloha district, Ranosesee (52), is looking after her grandson while her daughter, a single mother, is out fetching water and looking for wild fruits. Their small wooden hut is surrounded by cactus and a few trees growing in sandy soil. 

As in previous years, they and their neighbours have been able to harvest little. They rely on monthly supplies of maize and sorghum from the World Food Programme. 
“It would be difficult to survive without it,” says Ranosesee. “Many people have been forced to sell household belongings such as kitchen utensils or small livestock. I've been clearing cactus from my field so we can try and grow maize when the next rains come. The problem is that I tried and failed to plant so many times last season that I have no seeds left."

Ranosesee’s neighbor, Fiamina, usually grows maize, cassava, watermelon and sorghum.  She also tried to plant several times last season but the lack of rainfall and strong winds dried everything up. Her husband (78) has become so weak that he can no longer work in their field. Fiamina’s lost three of her children to hunger-related diseases over the last two years. 

“They became really thin and weak, and were suffering from high fever," says the mother.  

Ranosese cooks maize donated by USAID for her family in her hut.

Ranosese and Fiamina are among some 300,000 people who receive relief assistance through general food distributions conducted by WFP with support from local non-governmental organizations. In areas where food is available and markets are functioning, some 80,000 Malagasy, receive cash so they can choose their own food.  

In addition, WFP will provide food to vulnerable communities, complementing the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) which supply tools and drought resistant seeds.
In the most severely affected districts, as many as 15 percent of children under the age of five are malnourished. That is why WFP provides Moderate Acute Malnutrition (MAM) treatment for the 36,000 children under the age of five affected by malnutrition.

A healthcare worker assesses a boy for malnutrition in the village of Soamanitse.

“The mothers all say their children are healthier because of the nutrition supplements they receive,” says Sara, a community worker. “Nevertheless, we still see many cases of malnutrition and immediately refer them to the health services.” 

WFP’s assistance is made possible thanks to the support from donors such as the European Union, France, Switzerland, the United States and the Government of Madagascar through the National Office for Nutrition.