Humanitarian agencies are raising a new alarm on further shortage of food in southern Africa region after several countries declared drought or below-average rains.
On Thursday, the World Food Programme (WFP) listed Madagascar as a new country facing drought.
A statement said southern Madagascar has experienced unusual drought conditions, forcing hundreds of thousands of people to the brink of famine. The WFP appealed for $74 million for the next six months to save lives and “prevent a catastrophe".
The UN agency said consecutive years of drought in the south of the country have left at least 1.35 million people in need of emergency food and nutrition assistance.
Semi-arid conditions in southern Madagascar, combined with high levels of soil erosion, deforestation and unprecedented drastic sandstorms, have covered croplands and pasture with sand, and transformed arable land into wasteland across the region, a situational report said.
With a population of 25 million, Madagascar is situated off the southeast coast of Africa and is the fourth largest island in the world. It usually has consistent weather that has made its wildlife unique.
But the alert on drought comes after other countries indicated the same situation. In Angola, officials said there could be food shortage this year after months of drought in the south-western provinces.
Angola has been experiencing episodes of drought since December last year with below-average rainfall in the provinces of Cuanza Sul, Benguela, Huambo, Namibe and Huíla, the WFP said in March.
“The situation is not expected to improve in the coming months in the absence of above average rainfall.”
In February, the World Bank (WB) and the Cooperation in International Waters in Africa (CIWA) launched the Southern African Drought Resilience Initiative (SADRI).
But a situational report this week says the Southern Africa Development Community member states are still experiencing abnormal dry conditions, which are still hampering the 2020/21 rainy season, which typically runs from November to April.
Angola shares a 1,100km border with Namibia in the provinces of Cunene, Namibe and Cuando Cubango. The drought has forced more than 10,000 Angolans' flee to Namibia, officials said this week.
Mozambique has not been spared. Between April and October the country is cyclically hit by winds, floods and drought in some parts of the south.
The heavy rains followed a severe drought that saw the government declare an orange level alert in 2017.
Last week, the WFP warned that Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province will remain in the grips of hunger as thousands of people flee from violence.
More than 950,000 people now face severe hunger, WFP said, announcing it was scaling up its response in northern Mozambique, with plans to assist 750,000 internally displaced people and vulnerable members of the local community across the provinces of Cabo Delgado, Nampula, Niassa, and Zambezia.
The agency said, however, that it requires $82 million to respond to the crisis in northern Mozambique to support the vulnerable, women and children.
Recent attacks in Palma have affected 50,000 people. Many have fled Palma to Pemba on boats.