The Island country of Madagascar, located in the Indian Ocean, is paying the heftiest price of climate change; a terrible human-caused catastrophe, the poor country has little to no part to play. Squashed by the lack of rain and sufficient aid support, Madagascar is witnessing its worst drought in the last forty years, with no foreseeable relief in sight.

But what led to the demeaning condition of the country? How is climate change responsible for the millions starving in Madagascar? And, what can be done to reverse this unfolding nightmare?

The Starving Madagascar

Sand storms, rustling by in the bare, cracked land for as far as the eyes can run. No, it’s not Sahara; it is Southern Madagascar, a land once fertile and blooming with the lushing vegetation of maize and rice crops, now deserted. While we are discussing the transformations speculated to be seen in the post-pandemic world, we cannot oversee the hunger, soo severe that it is forcing people to eat sand.

The four consecutive years of drought, government neglect, pandemic, and local bandit attacks have turned Madagascar into bare land with dried rivers. The fourth-biggest island, popular for its breathtaking natural beauty and stunning rainforests. But for all the majestic beauty, the island is on the brink of the worst famine in forty years.

Retoboha, 4, getting MUAC measurements taken by WFP staff in Ambovombe, one of the districts with a very high number of malnourished children.

According to the United Nations, over 1.14 million people in Madagascar are food insecure. They cannot get enough nutritious food to eat. Fourteen thousand of them are on the brink of death due to starvation, disease, and malnutrition. Furthermore, with the uncertainty of the rain, the numbers are expected to double by October 2021.

The Sand Eaters of Madagascar

Situations in the Souther Madagascar are direr than anywhere else on the planet. Even the cacti native to the area have stopped growing fruits. However, the terror of the 1990s drought that cost the country hundreds of life is ushering back in the residents.

Many are forced to eat white clay and tamarind or even bits of shoe leather to keep hunger at bay. They claim that the ethenic taste of tamarind in the clay solution seeps into their mouth and stake off the hunger. In an interview with Wion, one resident said, “If we had anything to eat, if our saliva were enough, we would never have eaten that.”

इस देश में कोरोना के साथ भुखमरी की मार, घास और टिड्डियां खाने को मजबूर लोग  - madagascar edges toward famine un food agency appeals for assistance

On the other hand, children’s digestive system is unable to process the white clay, causing widespread swollen stomachs and malnutrition. The malnourished bodies of children and adults are highlighting the grueling condition that prevails in the region.

Climate Change: Why is Madagascar Starving?

Unlike most of the previous famines across the globe, Madagascar’s mass starvation stands out for a peculiar reason. Here, the major driver of the famine-like condition is climate change. However, many other considerable factors are contributing to the famine-like condition of the country, including the unstable government, lack of investment in education, food, and infrastructure, and the complications associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The extensive greenhouse gas emission is leading to extreme weather. The land of Southern Madagascar was already dry, but the exceptional warmth over the last six years has added to the region’s extreme weather. As the air gets warmer, the air molecules move apart from each other, thus extracting more moisture in form of water vapors from the ground.

On the other hand, global warming has resulted in the formation of extremely hot packets of water that are changing the wind pattern, resulting in more rain in the nearby country, which, in turn, is fueling the massive droughts in southern African regions.

The Innocent Victims

Almost every family in Madagascar grows their own food; thus, the continuous drought has cause substantial damage. Despite producing only 0.01% of all the global carbon emissions, Madagascar is facing the consequences. These innocent victims are burying the brunt with a colossal impact on their lives without doing anything to add to climate change.

The causes and solutions of climate change-triggered famine in Madagascar and other front-line victim regions of the climate crisis will be discussed in the COP26, November 2021.

Southern Madagascar at risk of famine amid worst drought in 40 years

Urgent food and health aid assistance powered by the wealthier nations can save the lives of millions suffering in Madagascar today. But, a more rigid, crisis-resilient management system needs to be developed at an international scale. The mitigation of emission and concrete steps towards the zero-emission goal are the stepping stones towards the solution.

Let this be the grim reminder of hunger and demining living conditions forced upon the victim with no hand in igniting the climate change catastrophe. Because it raises the question that are these types of famine and extreme climate-infused calamites are going to be much more common.