World Food Program Extends Emergency Appeal

Jun 19, 2003 04:01 PM EDT

The World Food Programme (WFP) has extended its emergency appeal for food aid in Madagascar until the end of 2003 as a result of drought and the recent cyclones.

The appeal is also to address insufficient donor support, which only covered 57 percent of the previous appeal meant to stabilise communities affected by similar problems last year, a WFP statement said on Tuesday.

"We are thankful to donors who responded to our appeal but there are tens of thousands of people who urgently need assistance, and will continue to do so, unless they're given a chance to restore their livelihoods," Bodo Henze, WFP Country Director for Madagascar said.

Last November WFP launched an emergency appeal for about US $8.2 million to provide food to about 400,000 people. However, the underfunding means many vulnerable people are not receiving the assistance they need.

The south of the country has not had a proper harvest in the past two years, which has led to an increase in the number of severely malnourished children arriving at government-run nutrition centers.

To add to the region's problems, in May tropical storm Manou killed more than 70 people, and caused significant damage to bridges, roads and agricultural land.

In the southern Androy region the cactus fruits people have been eating as a last resort are now exhausted. Harvesting of seasonal sweet potatoes is underway, but a lack of rain and the recent strong winds are expected to adversely impact maize harvests next month and quickly erode any reserves of sweet potatoes, the statement said.

"It seems like Madagascar's food crisis has been forgotten," Henze said. "Different parts of Madagascar are exposed to different types of natural disasters at different times of the year. From this perspective, it's difficult to sensitise donors to the plight of people affected by drought when another part of the population has just been struck by a cyclone."

The current harvests are being monitored closely but the agency is already anticipating a further deterioration in food security in the south from September, when the lean season starts.

By sarah park
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