The people of southern Madagascar are experiencing an exceptionally acute food and nutrition crisis that has left thousands of children seriously ill and plunges entire families into extreme poverty.
Since March 2021, MSF’s emergency teams have been setting up more and more mobile clinics to provide humanitarian and medical aid in several districts in the region. You have now started distributing food and recently opened an inpatient therapeutic nutrition center at the hospital in the city of Ambovombe.
After years of consecutive droughts, the prospects for the harvest, which in normal times would already be in full swing, are extremely poor – according to FEWS NET, food production is expected to fall by up to 70 percent below that of the last five annual average.
Although there can be differences between the districts depending on whether they are in the highlands or in the arid plains, whether there is an irrigation system in place or the help arrives at the people, the situation is in the region in which our teams work. There are also concerns for the coming months, as the crisis could worsen with the start of the “lean season” (the time between harvests) in October.
“We see malnourished children who have difficulty regaining weight after weeks of treatment in our mobile clinics,” says Bérengère Guais, MSF’s head of emergency programs, who has just been to Madagascar. “The medical care we provide and the half rations that various organizations have distributed are not enough to reverse the trend in an environment with so little access to food.”
“A massive increase in emergency food aid is an absolute priority,” says Guais.
In addition to treating malnutrition and its medical complications, in June we began distributing food rations to families of malnourished patients to help them regain access to food. One ration contains about 66 kilograms of rice, beans, oil and salt, which is enough to meet a family’s needs for a month. Our teams have already distributed 1,588 rations (around 104 tons of food), which will be extended for the next few months.
Mobile clinics for the screening and treatment of acute malnutrition have been set up at more than 15 locations in the Anôsy and Androy regions (14 in the Amboasary district and 3 in the Ambovombe district). Since medical care began in late March, our teams have treated 4,339 people with moderate or severe acute malnutrition.
The condition of malnourished children is made worse by a number of comorbidities, most notably malaria – which affects 22% of our young patients – respiratory infections (18%) and diarrhea (14%).
Further needs assessments and malnutrition screening initiatives are being carried out in the southwest of the island and will be extended to the Androy and Atsimo-Andrefana regions in the next few days.
22% UNDERNUTNED CHILDREN WITH MALARIA
18% UNDERNUTNED CHILDREN AFFECTED BY RESPIRATORY TRAIN INFECTIONS
14% malnourished children with diarrhea
Inpatient malnutrition center opened at Ambovombe hospital
In cooperation with the local authorities, our teams started building an inpatient therapeutic nutrition center in the hospital in Ambovombe six weeks ago in order to expand the inpatient care of seriously ill malnourished children.
Starting with 40 beds – an expansion to double this is already in progress – the center is now open to patients.
On June 21, the first three patients were admitted accompanied by their mothers and by the end of the first week after opening, 28 children had already been treated.
Improving access to water
A third of the malnourished children we treat in our mobile clinics in the Amboasary district also suffer from diarrhea or parasitosis, which indicates a lack of clean water.
Since March, MSF has distributed 190 cubic meters of water, 2,872 canisters and 3,870 bars of soap. Our teams have repaired 11 hand pumps in existing installations and 7 more will be back in service soon. Work on the construction of 9 hand pump wells has started and should be completed in July and August. We are also examining the installation of wells in 24 locations.