Think that climate change caused the current food crisis in Madagascar? Think again.
Periodic famine has occurred in the southeast African country since prehistoric times, and an island-wide food crisis is predicted to hit next month, when the worst of its rains arrive.
Scientists blame politics and a poverty problem, not climate change, for current scarcity.
In one of the poorest countries in the world, villagers say they have less food than ever before, with about one-quarter of those now starving, according to the United Nations’ World Food Programme.
This year, the famine is likely to spread because the rainy season is arriving too late and the bad rains also were largely poorly distributed in 2016, the WFP warned.
“We can’t mitigate the effects of climate change by feeding people the wrong way – we have to find out how to adapt, and deliver more food than ever,” said WFP’s regional spokesperson Elisabeth Byrs.
The WFP has already withdrawn aid in some regions, and experts say the situation in November and December is likely to be even worse than usual.
Related Image Expand / Contract Dozens of schools have closed across Madagascar because of the drought. (AP)
Global warming may have increased the severity of erratic rains in Madagascar, but the rise in temperatures has not affected the island’s rainfall capacity, according to a report published by the Rift Valley Institute.
Related Image Expand / Contract Malagasy men have scavenged for food during the recent food crisis. (AP)
A 2009 coup triggered the fall of Madagascar’s democratically elected government. Political upheaval and increasing poverty led to the country’s worst drought in decades and the drought’s associated famine, which has seen more than 5 million people affected and left 70,000 dead, according to the UN.
The UN has said that without more aid, the crisis could escalate to “catastrophic” levels, with some growing desperate enough to attack food assistance teams in order to steal as much food as possible.
Severe weather attributed to climate change including warmer average temperatures combined with El Niño can directly increase the risk of food insecurity, with the UN now reporting a 21 percent increase in global food insecurity since 2005.
The longer current food security conditions last, the higher the risk of a new crisis in the future, the report said.
WFP estimates that the total monthly costs of weather-related impacts in Madagascar are at least $20 million, including farming, food transport and healthcare for people affected by drought.
In July, director of the WFP’s South Asia region Patrick Murphy called global climate change a “threat multiplier,” putting entire communities at risk of hunger.
And David Lobell, research fellow for the Center for Climate and Security at Stanford University, said in a report for the Feinstein Institute that climate change was likely to worsen long-term food insecurity, adding that “disasters that result from climate change are more frequent.”
Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel’s senior managing health editor. He also serves as chairman of the department of obstetrics/gynecology and reproductive science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. Click here for more information on Dr. Manny’s work with Hackensack University Medical Center. Visit AskDrManny.com for more.