Fri. Jan 21st, 2022

ROME (AP) – The drought-stricken island nation of Madagascar is a “wake up call” to what the world can expect in the coming years due to climate change, the head of the UN Food Aid Agency said on Tuesday.

David Beasley, CEO of the World Food Program, said in an interview with The Associated Press that what is happening in the southern Indian Ocean is “the beginning of what we can expect” as the effects of global warming become more pronounced. .

“Madagascar was heartbreaking,” Beasley said, referring to his recent visit there. “It’s just desperate,” with people reduced to selling their household pots and pans to try to buy food, he said.

About 38 million people worldwide were displaced last year due to climate change, making them vulnerable to hunger, according to Beasley. A worst case scenario could see the number rise to 216 million people displaced by 2050 climate change.

It is the year that many industrialized nations – but not China, Russia or India – have set as their goal of achieving carbon neutrality, which means reducing greenhouse gas emissions to the point where they can be absorbed and effectively adding zero to the atmosphere.

When Beasley, a former governor of South Carolina, took the helm of the World Food Program in 2017, the main reason people were on the brink of starvation, man-made conflict, was followed by climate change, he said.

But since then, climate change has darkened conflicts as the main driver of displacing people and not letting them know where their next meal is coming from. Last year, about 38 million, he said, were displaced “strictly because of climate shock, climate change,” Beasley said.

“I would like to think that this is the worst case scenario – 216 million people in 2050 who will migrate or expel due to climate change,” he said.

According to updated WFP figures released on Tuesday, close to 30,000 people in Madagascar will be a step away from famine by the end of the year, and around 1.1 million are already suffering from severe hunger. The island is struggling with unusually hot temperatures, droughts and sandstorms.

The crops have withered and the harvest is scarce. People have started eating cactus leaves, which are usually cattle feed, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization said.

“Madagascar is not an isolated incident,” Beasley said. “The world has to look to Madagascar to see what comes your way and (to) many other countries around the world.”

He pointed out that Madagascar, a country of 27 million people, accounts for only the smallest fraction of greenhouse gas emissions in global terms.

“What did they do to contribute to climate change?” he asked rhetorically.

The World Food Program has provided about 700,000 people on the island with food and supplementary nutritional products for pregnant and lactating women and children.

In Ethiopia, on the other hand, famine is man-made, caused by conflict.

The World Food Program estimates that 5.2 million people are in need of emergency assistance in Tigray, Ethiopia’s controlled northern region. In recent weeks, UN officials have warned that more than 400,000 people could be starved to death if humanitarian aid is not delivered quickly, but hardly any help can come to those in desperate need of food.

Tigray forces say they are pressuring the Ethiopian government to lift a month-long blockade of their region of about 6 million people, where basic services have been disrupted and humanitarian food and medical aid denied.

Beasley says the WFP has “message to all sides, including the Ethiopian government, the leadership, that this is a crisis” that needs immediate access to food aid. But “we are not moving forward,” he said.

“We are not able to get (food aid) trucks in or get fuel in. We are not even able to get the money for the people we have to pay,” Beasley told the AP.

As a result, the Tigray people “have to die for an unprecedented number, but we can not get the access we need,” he said. “It’s a disgrace.”

He said the WFP should move in 30 daily trucks filled with food and another 70 full of medicine and other humanitarian aid. “We do not even get 10% of it in trucks a day,” said the agency’s director.

For many of Tigray’s people, Beasley said, it has come down to “either dying or migrating.”

Paradoxically, Afghanistan’s new Taliban rulers have given WFP access to food distribution centers and schools where many teachers go unpaid, and protected WFP stocks, while international donors have not provided adequate funding, Beasley said.

“You run into the issue of donors (who) do not want to be seen in any way as helping or supporting or supporting the Taliban,” Beasley said.

In Afghanistan, 22.8 million people – half the population – face acute food insecurity or “march against hunger,” as Beasley put it.

Conflict and drought combined to create the food crisis of the poor nation.

The serious situation will become even more critical from January, when WFP’s food supplies to Afghanistan will run low if more donors do not get through.

“That price is $ 230 million a month to feed them” at only partial rations, Beasley said, adding, “there are 8.7 million people in Afghanistan knocking on the door of famine.”

The UN body received the Nobel Peace Prize last year.

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By Victor

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