November 21, 2005

Thousands face famine in Madagascar

ANTANANARIVO (Reuters) - Thousands of children face severe
malnutrition in southeastern Madagascar and 1,600 could soon
die if they do not receive emergency food aid, a government
official said on Monday.

Emergency Council Secretary-General Jacki Randindrarison
said the government had appealed for aid to avert a famine in
the drought-prone Vangaindrano district and was rushing aid to
the worst-affected villages.

"We did an assessment last week, 1,600 children are at
immediate risk of dying from famine, thousands of others have
malnutrition," he said.

On Friday, the United Nations' coordination body for
humanitarian affairs OCHA estimated that 14,000 children in the
region were malnourished.

Randindrarison said flooding caused by two cyclones that
ripped through the Indian Ocean island in February and March
had destroyed crops, causing food shortages.

"Normally the region is food insecure but flooding of crops
this year made the situation worse," he said.

Madagascar is one of the world's poorest nations, with
three quarters of its 17 million people living on less than a
dollar a day. Aid agencies say the island's rates of child
malnutrition are among the worst in Africa.

Famine often strikes the island's arid south-east.