Since March 2021, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) emergency teams have been combating malnutrition in 18 hard-to-reach areas through mobile clinics, facilitating access to water, and have opened an intensive nutritional recovery centre for critically ill children within the hospital in the town of Ambovombe.
People in southern Madagascar are experiencing the worst food and nutrition crisis in decades. The situation in the area where MSF teams are working is catastrophic and the crisis could get even worse from October onwards, when the next lean season begins - the time of year before the first harvests and when grain from the previous harvest may run out. As a result, 74,000 children in the southern region of Madagascar are acutely malnourished, including 12,000 who are severely malnourished - an 80 per cent increase from the last quarter of 2020.
"The cause of this situation concerns us all, as it is largely linked to the climatic upheaval our planet is experiencing. Deforestation, sandstorms and the worst drought in the region in 30 years have devastated agricultural crops," said Ricardo Fernández, MSF Head of Mission.
"A father who came to see our teams for his daughter confided: ‘We eat nothing but tubers. We dig the earth to find them. Such bad food can only make you sick’.” Ricardo Fernández, MSF Head of Mission
Since the intervention began at the end of March, around 5,500 people under the age of 10 have been treated by MSF for moderate or severe malnutrition.
Since June, MSF has also been providing food rations to the families of malnourished patients in order to restore sufficient access to food for the entire population. MSF has already distributed 250 tonnes of food. To ensure that distributions continue until October, MSF has ordered an additional 750 tonnes of food.
To strengthen hospital care for critically malnourished children, MSF built a 40-bed intensive nutritional recovery centre in Ambovombe hospital, in partnership with local authorities. The structure is now operational, with an initial capacity of 40 beds. Since 21 June 2021, 87 children have been admitted to the centre, which may soon double its capacity. A blood bank was also installed in June.
To screen and treat acute malnutrition, mobile clinics now visit 18 sites in the Anôsy and Androy regions. In some villages in Amboasary district, MSF teams found that an average of 28 per cent of children under five were acutely malnourished, with one-third of them suffering from severe malnutrition and at high risk of death.
In Madagascar, we're seeing acute on chronic malnutrition with the medical complications that go along with it, so children being more susceptible to infection and malaria. Many children that are getting recurrent malaria become quite anemic because they don’t fully recover between episodes. Juliet Drummond, MSF doctor of a mobile clinic in the distric of Amboasary
According to the UN, Madagascar is the first country to face a nutritional emergency linked to global warming.
A third of the malnourished children followed up in the mobile clinics in Amboasary district suffer from either diarrhoeal disease or parasitosis, indicating a lack of access to clean water.
Since March, MSF has distributed 190 cubic meters of water, 2,872 jerry cans and 3,870 bars of soap. Our teams have repaired 11 hand pumps on existing installations and seven are currently being repaired. Work on the construction of nine hand-pump wells is underway and is expected to be completed during July and August. 9 wells and boreholes have already been created following a study in 24 different areas.