Southern Madagascar is currently experiencing extreme food shortages and rising prices caused by the economic impact of COVID-19 and seasonal drought. At present, 1.5 million people in the region, approximately half the population, are unable to find enough food to eat. Exacerbated by high poverty levels in the region, women and children face heightened vulnerability to hunger, contributing to life-threatening surges in the incidence of malnutrition. Wasting among children has nearly doubled, from 9.2% in December 2020 to 16.5% in April 2021. A third (1.14 million) of the region’s population are now facing severe food poverty as of April 2021, with at least 135,476 children aged between six months and five years suffering from acute malnutrition, and at least 27,137 of these children diagnosed with severe acute malnutrition (SAM).
SEED is witnessing the unfolding of this severe crisis first-hand. In April 2021, our assessment identified a total 575 children with severe acute malnutrition (SAM) or moderate acute malnutrition (MAM) across the seven target sites, which is drastically higher than initially anticipated in December 2020. This is an urgent crisis that needs to be widely addressed and SEED has the capacity and community connections to help.
Whilst not a relief agency, SEED is in an ideal position to intervene. With 20 years of experience working on a range of sustainable development projects, SEED has existing relationships with many of the worst affected communities and government-led clinics, which has provided a route for food distribution.
SEED is responding to this crisis through the implementation of an Emergency Food Distribution project, which commenced in February 2021. The project currently targets seven rural health clinics across 41 high-risk villages in the southern region of the country, where no other NGOs are currently supporting. In collaboration with local community health centres, SEED distributes ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF) and unprepared food, including rice, beans, and oil, to those most in need: children suffering from moderate acute malnutrition (MAM) or severe acute malnutrition (SAM) and their families. Building on ongoing organisational efforts to improve the COVID-19 prevention capacity of healthcare facilities in these sites, SEED is facilitating healthcare providers in identifying and treating children with acute malnutrition, which contributes to 50% of childhood deaths. To support children with SAM who have additional complications such as respiratory infections, oedema, or dehydration, SEED covers the transportation costs to the nearest hospital for emergency care. Nutrition education is also delivered to all families of children with SAM or MAM to support sustainable behaviour change, whilst healthcare providers are trained to monitor and support their recovery.
As the response progresses key activities include:
- Covering the cost of emergency transportation to the hospital for children with malnutrition who suffer from medical complications
- Providing unprepared food – including rice, beans, and oil – for families with malnourished children
- Providing food and nutrition education sessions to local families, enabling them to support their children’s healthy nutrition in the long-term
- Working collaboratively with the local healthcare system to improve the diagnosis, treatment, and recovery of malnutrition through intensive training to Community Health agents.