Madagascar faces ‘catastrophic’ hunger after 3 cyclones

 Battered by three intense cyclones in the space of a year, southeast Madagascar is experiencing the knock-on effect of those climatic disasters: “Catastrophic” hunger in remote, inaccessible areas is gain­ing little international attention, humanitarian groups say.

Cyclone Batsirai hit in February 2022, followed two weeks later by Cyclone Emnati. Then, Cyclone Freddy made landfall on the In­dian Ocean Island in February of this year.

The combined impact left 60 per cent-90 per cent of farm­ing areas in the southeast badly damaged and food crops largely destroyed, according to a report by United Nations Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and Madagascar’s National Office for Nutrition.

The suffering is felt by people like Iavosoa, a desperate young mother whose 10-month-old daughter, Soaravo, was at risk of not living to see her first birthday because of acute malnutrition.

Iavosoa, who only gave her first name to protect her privacy, also has a 3-year-old son suffering from moderate malnutrition. A team from the humanitarian or­ganisation, Doctors of the World, brought her children and two other badly malnourished children, both under age two, to a hospital in the city of Mananjary on Madagascar’s east coast last month.

This is after a group of parents and their children were found walking through the bush to try to reach the nearest health centre. At the hospital, Soaravo moaned weakly as her mother rocked the baby in her arms to soothe her.

The child weighed barely two kilograms (4.4 pounds) and had the appearance of an infant born prematurely, her eyes almost too big for her tiny skull. At her age, she should weigh four to six times more, doctors said.

“If my daughter is in this state, it’s because we don’t have enough food where we live,” Iavosoa said. “I had dysentery for two months. I had almost no milk. I was exhaust­ed. The first basic health centre is three hours’ walk from my village. I could not treat myself. … I was unable to travel such a distance.”

“And then she (Soaravo) got sick, too. And then Cyclone Freddy came. (It) ravaged our village and completely destroyed our house,” she said. —AP

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