Written by Vedika Pathania, a second-year student.
What is happening in Madagascar?
According to the United Nations, Madagascar (a country in East Africa) is on the verge of facing the world’s first “climate change famine,” with tens of thousands of people already suffering “catastrophic” levels of hunger and food insecurity following four years without rain.
The destruction inflicted by Madagascar’s worst drought in four decades is seen in the broken red ground and sunken eyes of malnourished youngsters. Madagascar is one of Africa’s poorest countries.
Climate change specialists believe such heartbreaking pictures should serve as an alarm bell about the need for significant action to curb planet-heating emissions and climate-proof global agricultural systems as the south of the island is pushed to the verge of starvation.
How is it affecting the people?
More than 1.14 million people in the south of the Indian Ocean country are food insecure, according to the UN, as a result of the drought, which some scientists attribute to global warming.
The country’s worst drought in four decades has wreaked havoc on remote rural villages in the south, forcing people to hunt for insects to survive. The effects of the present drought are already being felt in bigger cities in southern Madagascar, with many youngsters having to beg for food on the streets.
According to the UN, 30,000 people are already suffering from the greatest degree of food insecurity – level five – and there are fears that the number of people impacted could grow significantly as Madagascar approaches its typical “lean season” before harvest.
How exactly has climate change caused widespread famine?
According to statistics from the Global Carbon Project, Madagascar emits a little more than 0.01 percent of the world’s yearly carbon dioxide emissions. Between 1933 and 2019, the country produced less than 0.01 percent of all carbon dioxide produced worldwide—the carbon dioxide that is now causing catastrophic climate change. Madagascar’s drought, which is the worst in 40 years, is one of the consequences of these changes.
Could this have been predicted?
For years, scientists have been studying climate trends in order to anticipate such implications for southern Africa. However, this hasn’t always made it simpler to avoid disasters. According to data, the number of countries vulnerable to several sorts of climatic extremes has increased by 500 percent in the last 20 years. Despite the fact that Madagascar is frequently hit by droughts and is frequently impacted by El Nio (a climatic phenomenon that explains the unusual warmth of surface waters in the eastern Pacific Ocean), scientists think climate change is directly connected to the current situation.
What caused the famine?
According to food experts, the issue is caused by a combination of factors, including increased droughts connected to climate change, a weak agricultural system, and the economic effects of COVID-19. In a landmark United Nations scientific study released last month, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated that Madagascar has seen increased aridity and that human-induced climate change is the primary cause of Africa’s rising surface temperature. The COVID-19 epidemic, according to humanitarian organisations, has disrupted supply lines, increased unemployment, and limited access to food markets.
Many peasant farmers have turned to scavenging for insects and cactus leaves, according to the relief organisationMedecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders). According to UNICEF, inadequate health facilities, poor sanitation, and insufficient, dangerous drinking water sources have worsened an already difficult position.
Experts believe that as climate change heats oceans and generates bigger storms, low-lying coasts are becoming more prone to cyclones and flash floods, which were formerly uncommon in this region.
Can the same situation occur in other parts of the world?
According to climate scientists, more nations are expected to face climate-related food insecurity because Madagascar is not the only country experiencing severe drought. According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, between 720 million and 811 million people would be hungry by 2020, owing in part to the pandemic’s economic and supply chain consequences, mostly in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Drought in southern Angola is also causing Angolans to migrate to Namibia in quest of food. The Democratic Republic of Congo and West Africa’s Sahel area are also in danger.
Is there a solution?
Chris Funk, head of the Climate Hazards Center at Santa Barbara University in California, verified the relationship with “warming in the atmosphere” and said the Madagascan government needed to focus on improving water management. Food aid is the most urgent short-term answer, according to relief organisations, but they also emphasise the need for more long-term strategies that focus on new agricultural practises like rice fortification, which has a better nutritional value.