Op - Madagascar is drying out – there’s no harvest, only hunger

12 11 2021 | 15:00Anonymous

A doctor in the south of the country says people are eating cactus leaves and ashes as the rains become more erratic

There’s nothing to harvest any more, nothing that can be taken from the land, that’s why people are starving in Madagascar.

The rainy season was always special, an important time when everyone planted food – key crops such as cassava. But for the past three years we’ve had very little rain. The climate has changed in Madagascar, maybe because of the global climate crisis. We used to have distinct seasons but no more, it has been a bit troubled. The landscape looks really dry, the trees have no more leaves. It is hard to find green areas, most have turned arid and grey.

This year was even worse because the rainy season came so late that most people could not plant as usual. This is why we see hunger, especially in children, and maybe worse is still to come. I see this hunger where I work, giving medical care to pregnant women and newborns.

You can see when they talk to us how hungry they are, that they have come without eating anything. Some cannot even wait for us to get around to seeing them, they go home to search for something to eat. Many do not come at all – if you haven’t eaten, you can’t walk 20km to the health centre. Some are afraid they will walk all this way but the health centre will not have anything for them to eat.

We try to help: sometimes I buy cactus fruit and give it to the women while they wait. This is only a small thing but I feel it’s important. Hunger is everywhere in southern Madagascar. Those who have livestock or land will sell it to buy food but they are taken advantage of because they are so desperate. Then there are others who have nothing. They eat cactus leaves mixed with ashes, just to not be hungry, to get rid of that empty feeling.

Some people run away, hoping to find a better life somewhere else. I once met a man who had walked 200km from his home with his wife and children. But there are others who won’t do that – they don’t want to leave their land, that’s their home.

The problem here is water. There are places where there is no water at all. People might have to walk 20km to find water from the dried-up river – you have to dig one or two metres down into the sand to find water, which is dirty.

I don’t see it getting better, I’m not positive at all. We hear about plans to bring water to this part of the country but so far there is nothing. There are some organisations working here but only in a few places, so many rural areas are forgotten. More help is needed.

 The author is a doctor in Madagascar who wishes to remain anonymous



11 November 2021

The Guardian