Written by By Colby Zwicker, CNN
A new study has highlighted how climate-related factors such as prolonged droughts can significantly alter the lives of nearly half of the population of Madagascar, compounding economic and health problems and making security and food security hard to maintain.
During the so-called dry season — which varies from about December to April — about 49% of households in the island nation experience acute food insecurity, the report, published in Nature Climate Change on April 28, found.
The findings highlight how the island’s volatile climate is reshaping the lives of its 500,000 residents, including families now forced to spend more than half their income on food.
“Even though it appears to be dry when compared to other regions in Southern Africa, the 2012 dry season is thought to be the warmest in the history of Madagascar,” said study co-author Antoine Bertrand, the director of the Institute for Public Health in Madagascar, in a statement.
“As a result, crops didn’t emerge for a long time and rural economies became dependent on food aid. Many people started migrating to cities to look for work and the resilience of families to cope was reduced.”
According to the report, poverty is also increasing with around 95% of the population below the national poverty line.
We are dealing with an impossible context… There is very little that can be done about it, short of mobilizing people quickly and halting climate change Professor Gordon Conway
“The shortfalls in public services that could be better resourced to respond to new climate stressors have resulted in continued exclusion of large groups of people from the formal economy and large portions of the population receiving few if any public assistance. This is partly due to the presence of very poor agricultural practices and less efficient administration of public resources,” said Bertrand.
Scientists warned that as well as raising food prices and placing more strain on the supply of food in Madagascar, prolonged droughts also increase the threat of extreme weather events, such as cyclones and floods.
“It is very disturbing that between these dry and wet seasons, more and more of our people are facing the consequences of droughts,” said Professor Gordon Conway, of the University of Central Lancashire, in a statement.
“We are dealing with an impossible context. There is very little that can be done about it, short of mobilizing people quickly and halting climate change.”
The study also found that some 50% of households face food insecurity during the wet season, with some areas being completely ruined as a result of the cyclones that sweep through the island during the rain season.