People in the Grand Sud of Madagascar are facing the most acute drought the region has seen since 1981, leading to a severe humanitarian crisis.
Some 1.13 million people—nearly two in every five people in the Grand Sud—are severely food insecure and the situation is expected to deteriorate further.
Global acute malnutrition rates have risen sharply. The number of communes in nutrition emergency has increased from 38 in December 2020 to 97 in April 2021.
The Grand Sud of Madagascar has been buffeted by back to back droughts during the 2019/2020 and 2020/2021 rainy seasons, forcing people to resort to desperate survival measures, such as eating locusts, raw red cactus fruits or wild leaves. The agriculture sector has been severely impacted. Between November 2020 and January 2021, less than 50 per cent of the normal rainfall was received in the Grand Sud, leading to the most acute drought in the region since 1981. By January 2021, almost 69 per cent of the Grand Sud was impacted by extreme drought. The water table is critically low in many districts, reducing access to potable water.
Nearly two in every five people in the Grand-Sud (1.13 million people) are severely food insecure and five districts—Amboasary Atsimo, Ambovombe Androy, Beloha, Tsihombe and Ampanihy Ouest—are in IPC Phase 4 (Emergency) from April to September 2021. In Amboasary Atsimo, about 75 per cent of the population is severely food insecure and about 14,000 people are estimated to be in IPC Phase 5 (Catastrophe), according to the latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis. This is the first time that people have been recorded in IPC Phase 5 since the IPC methodology was introduced in Madagascar in 2016. The situation is expected to continue deteriorating and, from October to December 2021, the number of people in IPC Phase 3 and above is projected to increase to 1.31 million, with six districts in IPC Phase 4. An outbreak of Rift Valley Fever in the Atsimo-Andrefana and Atsinana Region has the potential to severely affect livestock-based livelihoods in these areas, if not treated quickly.
Global acute malnutrition (GAM) rates have risen sharply, with devastating consequences for children, based on the results of eight SMART surveys conducted by the Government and UNICEF. The number of children admitted for treatment for severe acute malnutrition (SAM) in the Grand Sud in the first quarter of 2021 was quadruple the five-year average. The situation is particularly critical in Ampanihy and Ambovombe districts, where 27 per cent of children are acutely malnourished. In total, at least 70,595 children under age 5 are acutely malnourished (GAM), of which 11,238 are facing severe acute malnutrition (SAM). The number of communes in nutrition emergency has increased from 38 in December 2020 to 97 in April 2021, based on the final screening reports for the fourth quarter in 2020 and the first quarter in 2021.
Child abuse and gender-based violence are on the rise, as families’ desperation grows. Students are dropping out of schools and there has been an increase in reported cases of child abuse and exploitation. One survey found a 25-50 per cent increase in genderbased violence across 13 communes, while an estimated 49,500 pregnant women are exposed to excess maternal morbidity and mortality due to lack of access to essential obstetric care.
Families are leaving their rural homes and heading towards cities as a survival strategy. Since the beginning of 2021, significant displacements to cities such as Taolagnaro (Fort Dauphin), Betroka and Ampanihy have been recorded, leaving young girls and children exposed to protection risks. There is a risk of further displacement in the period ahead due to the severity of the situation.
At the same time, there has been an upsurge in criminality by the dahalo gangs (cattle rustlers), particularly in the districts of Amboasary and Taolagnaro (Fort Dauphin), limiting access to essential services, such as health and nutrition. In addition, COVID-19 is increasingly affecting the Grand Sud.
Response to the crisis in the Grand Sud is scaling up. More than 736,000 people have received food or livelihoods assistance since January 2021 and about 114,500 people have been provided access to improved water sources. About 77,550 children have been vaccinated against vaccine-preventable diseases. More than 26,000 severely acute malnourished (SAM) children have received treatment through services established in every primary health-care centre in all affected southern districts.
With needs rapidly raising, partners are striving to scale-up the response. However, more resources are urgently needed to save lives and alleviate the acute suffering faced by people in the Grand Sud. If we do not have the necessary resources today to put people back on their feet, the crisis will deepen and more resources will be needed in six months’ time. The Flash Appeal for the Grand Sud that aimed to provide humanitarian assistance and protection to 1.1 million people from January to May 2021 remains 22 per cent funded, according to the Financial Tracking System (FTS). As the crisis continues to grow, the appeal will be revised and extended in the period ahead and more resources will be needed. Owing to the lead times to bring in commodities, it is critical that resources are received now to scale-up assistance in time to avert an even greater crisis. Resources are also urgently required to resume humanitarian flights to Antananarivo to facilitate immediate deployment of personnel, and Government clearance is needed for the flights to resume.