Famine-hit Madagascar Calls For Climate Empathy at COP26
Madagascar is suffering from a natural disaster instigated by global warming, which has caused some 1.3 million people to go hungry due to droughts that struck the African island.
"The world's first climate change-induced famine," a sentence that should sound all alarms around the globe, as it is solid proof of the gravity of climate change, which could see other countries suffering a similar fate if proper action is not taken in due time.
The famine ravaging the tropical African island prompted its Environment Minister to speak up for her homeland at the UN COP26 in Scotland to warn other countries against the repercussions of climate change, as they could 'find themselves suffering a similar fate.'
A drought that has spanned several years has desiccated farmland across the southern part of Madagascar, an African nation renowned for its biodiversity, with no end in sight.
More than 1.3 million people are severely hungry, and tens of thousands are facing famine conditions, which the United Nations attributed to global warming. This has led many to resort to eating locusts, wild leaves, and cactus, all of which had been used as feed for cattle, the World Food Programme said.
Environment Minister Baomiavotse Vahinala Raharinirina urged the UN by underscoring that "the situation is critical."
A stark warning
Raharinirina wants the nations that are partaking in the UN climate summit to be aware of the fact that this is just the beginning of a long series of climate-induced humanitarian crises.
2021 has seen the world engulfed in flames, submerged by water, and hit by droughts across all habitable continents, not to mention the increased pace of the melting of ice caps and rainfall where it is not supposed to occur. If all of that is not enough to sound the alarm, then the aforementioned natural disaster will only be the beginning of a saga that will drive our planet off the edge.
The Malagasy Minister used her post to appeal for climate solidarity, calling on nations to act to halt the march of calamities across the world.
"What we are living through now, others could experience," she said.
"Desertification, islands underwater - a large part of the lands in the south will disappear but so will cities here in the northern hemisphere," she warned.
She called on world leaders to take decisions and act to prevent this disaster from ravaging other countries.
Madagascar is no stranger to prolonged droughts; however, what it is not used to is the dry spells lasting this long and being of this intensity. If climate change is not curbed, the island could have nearly 75% of its soil scorched by 2080, affecting over 20 million people, the minister said.
To have a chance at dodging this grim future, energy-intensive lifestyles in the rich world - from taking cheap flights for holidays to using gas heaters on outside terraces - will have to change.
Repercussions of rich countries' actions
The west and certain rich nations, which Raharinirina called "polluting countries," have not experienced what Madagascar is going through, raising concerns from the Minister about "psychological distance," which could prevent the polluting countries from understanding the repercussions of their actions and the realities of these climate change-driven calamities.
The Minister demanded empathy, and that could be far from being achieved to the aforementioned psychological distance. "It's called empathy, climate empathy, maybe it's a new term but that's what it takes - empathy from north to south, and between citizens," she said.
The United Nations said last week nearly 30,000 people were now officially affected by the famine in the country, and 1.3 million others were now experiencing a food security crisis.
The children of Madagascar are those suffering from the most repercussions without even having a carbon footprint, to begin with, as half a million children are acutely malnourished, 110,000 of which are suffering from severe acute malnutrition.
There is scant hope in the weather forecast. Only 450 millimeters of rain is expected for the whole year, according to Raharinirina, the equivalent of a month's worth.
The COP26 summit in Glasgow has been under fire over delays in pledges of funding made by rich countries historically responsible for the greenhouse gases fueling climate change. The rich nations were supposed to fund developing nations, which naturally have low carbon emissions, as the latter are suffering from the repercussions of the rich ones' actions.
But Raharinirina praised the conference in the sense that it was able to give voices to nations such as her homeland on a platform they might not otherwise have.
She is hoping the international community will show "climate solidarity to help Madagascar preserve what remains, to reforest, to restore what is damaged."
The Minister underscored several times that "empathy does not mean pity," but rather a means to "access levers" so that others can project themselves for the future.