As of last week, over half of the country is infested with billions and billions of locusts, the worst plague in over 60 years.
This infestation is projected to leave two-thirds of the islands 22 million people hungry by fall of 2013, as the locusts destroy huge numbers of rice crops and livestock pasture.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says that a swarm of locusts can consume the same amount of food per day as 2,500 people.
In a country where 85% of the population lives on less than $1 per day, the destruction of over two-thirds of rice crops will be irreparably devastating.
In order to sufficiently stop the damage, the country will need over $41-million. They are desperately asking for half of the emergency funds by June, in an attempt to salvage this fall’s crops.
The FAO plans to aerial-spray 3.7 million acres with pesticides in order to get rid of the locusts.
How will the international community react to the threat of 14 million starving people, the endangerment of several species of lemur and the reality of a country that is no longer able to sustainably feed itself?
Well, it is lack of international support that created the problem to begin with. Underfunding of the locust response—half of the necessary funds in 2011, and only a quarter in 2012—allowed for only minimal prevention this year.
The last locust plague that hit Madagascar this severely was in the 1950s and it lasted for 17 years.
What is our responsibility to the people of Madagascar in their time of need?
If we choose to look the other way now, how will we respond to devastating famine in a country that is already vulnerable to food insecurity and malnutrition?
We must not allow political agendas to cloud our vision when it comes to leaving millions of people hungry.
I will be putting my personal resources towards humanitarian efforts in Madagascar while I wait for the international community to step up. Regardless of the funding that the country is able to secure, there will still be much work to be done in order to restore the areas that have already been affected.
If you are motivated to assist the people of Madagascar, please consider donating to this incredible organization—Mada Clinics. I have spent time living and working with them in northern Madagascar, and I can assure that their efforts directly impact the rural communities that will be hardest hit by this plague.
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Ed: Bryonie Wise