Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Hunger stalks drought-stricken Madagascar via IPS: The southern part of the island of Madagascar is suffering severe drought and famine. Lack of rainfall during the summer season has destroyed the country's main harvest in March and April. Half a million Malagasy have little or no access to clean water and food. The World Food Programme (WFP) and United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) have started to hand out food aid, but say their current budgets will only be enough to help 116,000 people in the southern regions of Androy, Anosy and Atsimo Andrefana that have been worst affected.

...The situation is bound to get worse. April surveys by UNICEF and WFP indicate the situation is deteriorating by the month, partly because the June harvests of sorghum and corn are also expected to fall short. According to quarterly magazine Système D'Alerte Précoce (SAP), the number of Malgasy affected by drought and hunger is expected to rise to 560,000 by September.

…Although the government-funded Malagasy National Office for Nutrition (ONN) built a number of centres last year in the country's southern regions to offer nutritional support to people affected by drought, especially small children, a lack of financial resources has compromised the work of the centres.

….To quickly drum up more aid, the United Nations made a flash appeal in April, calling for additional international assistance. In response, the French government has promised $1.8 million to WFP, as well as $628,000 to UNICEF for the prevention and treatment of acute malnutrition. However, the donation by France will cover only eight percent of the total financial aid needed to counter the effects of the drought, according to UN resident coordinator Xavier Leus.

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