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Urgent call for food aid

[Madagascar] Local traders in Antananarivo, May 2003
Villagers continue to hawk their assets to earn money to buy food (IRIN)

The World Food Programme (WFP) in Madagascar on Wednesday said it needed 2,000 mt of maize immediately to continue feeding some 270,000 beneficiaries across the 18 southern districts most affected by recent cyclones and ongoing drought conditions.

"Due to logistical delays there is now a shortfall of about 2,000 mt of maize. The contributions have been made, but it takes a long time before it actually arrives at the port," Annemarie Isler, WFP spokeswoman for Madagascar told IRIN.

As a result of insufficient donor support, WFP in June extended its emergency appeal for food aid to the Indian Ocean island until the end of 2003. Last November WFP launched an emergency appeal for about US $8.2 million to provide food to some 400,000 people.

Isler added that desperate villagers continued to hawk their personal belonging in markets to obtain cash with which to buy food.

"The prices of basic food commodities remained stable, and the fact that the government subsidised 700 mt of rice brought some relief to the situation, but we still see families selling their cattle in order to purchase food," she said.

According to a nutritional survey undertaken by Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) in July, 18.4 percent of children in the 18 affected districts were found to be malnourished. The south of the country has not had a proper harvest in the past two years, which has led to an increase in the number of severely malnourished children arriving at government-run nutrition centres.

Another concern were reports of food shortages in communities neighbouring the 18 districts. However, WFP noted that the situation in these villages was "stable".

WFP said the agency was pre-positioning food stocks in preparation for the cyclone season, expected to begin later this month.

The UN food agency also added that it hoped to introduce an HIV/AIDS component to existing programmes in the south of the country. HIV prevalence in Madagascar is now stands at 1.04 percent.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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