Famine drives human tragedy in southern Madagascar

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It took two bullets to end the young enterprising life. And Todisoa Andrinirina Fitiavana, 23-year old aid worker lay dead. He and three colleagues working for the non-governmental organization, Young Progress, were riding on a motorbike through the district of Amboasary on Tuesday,December 7, when the attack took place.

They had left Tranomaro to go to Ampilira, some 10km away to supervise monthly food distribution from the World Food Program (WFP). A young lady who was part of the team sustained injuries on the hand and had three fingers amputated.

Accounting for the remaining two men in the team, Arimino Ratovoson, director of Young Progress, said: “The thieves let them go when they realized they had attacked aid workers. According to them, they only wanted motorcycles, money and cell phones. “ Four of the robbers were later caught by the gendarmes.

The NGO does not appear to have been targeted, but the drama reflects the context of insecurity in which humanitarian workers must intervene urgently. The municipality of Tranomaro, where Young Progress is responsible for ensuring distributions to 5,300 households, or about 22,000 people, is classified in the red zone by the authorities because of the presence of zebu thieves.

These dahalos have long sowed terror in the villages, but the deterioration of living conditions linked to the drought and the Covid-19 epidemic is an additional factor of crime. “Dahalos are everywhere and security is a real issue. But here people have nothing to live on if we don’t come, ”says Ratovoson.

A situation that foreshadows famine

In southern Madagascar, a region abandoned decades ago by central authorities, 1.3 million people are in need of food assistance. In Tranomaro, the situation reached “stage 5”, the most serious on the scale established by the United Nations (UN). It foreshadows famine.

In the region, the number of severely food insecure people has tripled in the space of two years. “WFP supports 900,000 people and we are working with around 15 local organizations to ensure the distributions. This is the first time that such an accident has occurred, “said Arduino Mangoni, deputy director of the country office.

The significant risks associated with insecurity are part of the officially integrated constraints. “The presence of cattle thieves has also had an impact on humanitarian access, although humanitarian actors have not been the target of violence to date,” acknowledged the resident coordinator of the United Nations (UN ), Issa Sanogo, in June, in his appeal to donors.

Between January 2019 and June 2021, “at least 123 violent incidents were recorded in the Great South [70 armed clashes and 53 attacks against civilians]; 218 people are said to have died, thirteen people were kidnapped ”. Municipalities where “it is not possible to go”.

MSF, which was near the site of the attack on Tuesday, decided two months ago to withdraw its mobile clinic amid rumors that the organization was not welcome. “We were there precisely to try to reconnect with traditional leaders and consider the redeployment of our activities.

It is clear that we will wait for the results of the investigation before making a decision, ”explains Denis Basdevant, MSF coordinator in Ambaosary district, who describes“ a very volatile local situation ”and the existence of several towns where “it is not possible to go”.

The suffering in which the populations are plunged, after two years of extreme drought and the virtual absence of harvests, obliges humanitarians to take important precautions in the delivery of the aid.

“Impatience increases the risk of incidents and that is why we must do an important work of preparation and communication with the communities so that they understand according to what rules aid – in the form of food or money – is distributed ”, testifies Olivier Le Guillou, director of the office of Action Against Hunger in Madagascar.

In Ampilira, Todisoa Andrinirina Fitiavana had done this work. The provisions had been stored for a week in the office of the village chief. Each beneficiary had received his summons and the list had been made public. Sixty kilograms of rice, 9 kg of pulses, 5.6 kg of oil were to be given per household of five, as well as sachets of Plumpy Nut – an ultra-rich peanut-based paste – for undernourished children. Distribution has been adjourned until further notice.

Source: Le Monde

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