Over 1 million people are facing severe food insecurity in southern Madagascar following the country’s worst drought in 40 years. Humanity & Inclusion is supporting at-risk families and malnourished children.
Within a population of 2.8 million people, over half of Madagascar’s population is in need of humanitarian assistance. Women, children and people with disabilities are particularly at risk, as they are among the most affected in times of crisis. Families must strictly ration their meals and many report eating insects, cactus leaves or even leather to overcome extreme hunger. As the “lean season” approaches, and a recent locust outbreak has depleted many of the few remaining crops, the number of people at risk is expected to double if aid is not provided urgently.
Active in Madagascar since 1986, Humanity & Inclusion’s team is responding to the crisis, and has already reached more than 1,000 households. Staff is facilitating access to food, specifically targeting individuals with disabilities or those facing other circumstances that limit mobility or ability to work. In times of crisis, people with disabilities are among those most affected.
Since August, 1,086 households have received assistance including cash transfers, vouchers and food baskets of staple items such as rice, peas, oil and salt. These efforts will continue through September and October, with a second wave of distributions to an estimated 640 additional households from December to February.
“Food aid is necessary, and people with disabilities are among those most vulnerable to the crisis,” says Harison Rainifara, Humanity & Inclusion’s area manager for the project. “The districts where we’re working are already classified as food security emergency zones. With the arrival of the lean season, we are just trying to prepare people to make it through.”
Preventing consequences of malnutrition
The increasingly high levels of malnutrition and undernutrition in children under the age of 5 put them at heightened risk of delaying their growth and development. In Madagascar, severe acute malnutrition (SAM) affects one in four children. That number is expected to rise as the crisis worsens. SAM can lead to difficulties in developing motor skills such crawling, sitting and grasping, or to Hypotonia, a disorder that affects nerve control by the brain. If not properly managed, these developmental delays consolidate over time and become lifelong disabilities.
Humanity & Inclusion teams in the region have identified over 800 children in need of nutrition support and physical therapy to facilitate normal growth and development to prevent disability. As part of the response, local actors will be trained in early childhood stimulation therapy to enable children with SAM to maintain normal weight gain, growth patterns and cognitive development.
More than 1 million people face starvation in Madagascar. Humanity & Inclusion is launching an aid program to support people with disabilities, families and children at risk of malnourishment.
Madagascar is experiencing its worst drought in four decades, putting more than 1.35 million people at risk of starvation and malnutrition. In southern Madagascar, particularly the Atsimo-Andrefana region, families are facing major food insecurity that threatens their lives and well-being. This is especially true for children, women and people with disabilities, who are most affected in times of crisis.
According to the World Food Program, more than 1 million people are in a food security “crisis,” nearly 300,000 are in “urgent” need of aid, and 14,000 people have reached the final “catastrophe” phase of the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC). The number of people in this final phase is expected to double if sufficient aid is not provided urgently.
“The famine is everywhere, and it affects the majority of the population,” says Vincent Dalonneau, Humanity & Inclusion’s Operations Manager for Madagascar. “The death rates are high and household incomes are decreasing because people are too hungry to work. Health and social services are overloaded, children are at risk, and people with disabilities are further isolated and stigmatized.”
The potential consequences are particularly alarming for young children, as malnutrition and undernutrition can disrupt proper development and put them at a higher risk for developing both short- and long-term disabilities. Children are also likely to miss school or have difficulties learning due to symptoms of extreme hunger. Humanity & Inclusion teams have already identified approximately 800 children in need of support for malnourishment.
Physical therapy and nutrition
Humanity & Inclusion is launching an intervention project to provide emergency food aid to people with disabilities and their families (around 5,000 people), and reduce the risk of disability in children between the ages of 0 and 5 years due to malnutrition or undernutrition. Humanity & Inclusion physical therapists will provide stimulation therapy and early physical therapy to vulnerable children, enabling them to maintain normal weight gain, growth patterns and cognitive development through functional exercises and playing.
The project will train local physical therapists and occupational therapists in early childhood physical therapy, as well as conduct activities with community providers to raise awareness on disability development and the link between nutrition and disability. Humanity & Inclusion will support medical services linked to disability, and partner organizations plan to ensure long-term nutrition-specific support for identified children.
Families will receive food security assistance from Humanity & Inclusion in the form of food vouchers, cash transfer and food packages including standard items such as rice, peas, oil and salt.
In Malagasy, the project is called “TIALONGO: Tosika Iarahana Aby LONGO,” which translates to “Supporting all families together.” It is expected to reach at least 115,000 people.
Image: A mother and her young child were supported after their home flooded due to tropical storms in Madagascar in 2017. Copyright: Diana Vanderheyde/HI
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