In the far south of Madagascar, 1.5 million people are in need of food aid, the result of three consecutive years of drought that has devastated most crops. Although food aid from humanitarian organizations and the government is beginning to flow into the villages, it is not enough. Some households have not yet received anything, others have already used the few kilos of food and hot meals distributed. To cope, families resort to last resort survival strategies.
“This is the tamarind. I peeled it and added the seeds. Then I pile up and add the mixture of clay and water. “Like most of the residents of the Amboasary Sud district, it is this mixture, Bertine Sambetena, 37, and her children swallow to stave off hunger. : “It is not good for your health, but it is the only solution. If it does not kill, it means we can eat it. That is why it is called “the land that gives life back”. Tamarind seeds like that, it’s impossible to eat, it’s too sour. So we add clay. ”
To survive, this resident of the village of Fenoaivo sold the few items she owned, she explains, while reducing the mixture of tamarind and clay to a pulp: “There is only one pot left, and this one as you see there. When we ran out of food, I sold kitchen utensils and a bag of clothes to get some money, because it’s hard to hear the kids complain that they’re hungry. “
A few steps from Bertine’s hut are a dozen children looking tired, gathered under a tamarind tree. In their hand, pieces of green mango cut by their mother Kazy Gerady, a farmer: “It gives children diarrhea, but we do not know what else to eat. Even I can not stand it anymore, but we have no choice. You see him, he is very weak. He also looks strange. He’s not in good shape because we have nothing to eat. ”
Hanging, staring, Tavilahy, 6, has emaciated arms and legs, a swollen belly and depigmented hair. Children are the first victims of this food crisis. In the Amboasary district, three-quarters have left school, primarily to help their parents find food, WFP says. This is the case with 10-year-old Masy Toasy: “We are looking for wild tubers. That’s why we’re thin like that. Sometimes my parents take my notebooks from me to sell and buy some rice. ”
Theodore Mbainaissem, head of the WFP office far south of Madagascar: “We’re going to be close to a disaster, it’s obvious because people have nothing to eat. How long will they cope with the fact that they are already feeding on green mangoes, clays and the like. The adults, they cope with it as best they can because there are no other things to eat, but the children can not cope with it at all. Even the tamarinds we found. They told us that even the tamarind they were looking for in the woods is completely depleted. There is nothing. That’s the concern. ”
In the region, 120,000 children suffer from acute malnutrition.