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By: Emile Dawisha

EARTH DAY: Climate Shocks in Madagascar Create Hunger Crisis, Fuel Malaria Rates

April 22, 2023
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To commemorate Earth Day, we examine the impact of extreme weather events on malaria, through the perspective of the Madagascar humanitarian crisis. 

Madagascar is famous for having some of the world’s most beautiful beaches and lush rainforests. Well-known for its biodiversity, the island nation is home to 5% of the world’s plant and animal species. 

Sadly, Madagascar has found itself on the frontlines of the global climate crisis. In recent years, the island nation has endured the worst series of droughts since 1981, and more intense rainy seasons that have brought a spate of tropical storms and cyclones.   

Flood plains in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Freddy, which hit Madagascar on March 6. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Metraux.

The extreme weather has caused widespread crop failure in a country whose economy (82% of the labor force) and food production depends heavily on local agriculture. These conditions have fueled a catastrophic hunger crisis, with 1.64 million Madagascans battling food insecurity, including 479,000 malnourished children.  

For millions of Madagascans, the daily journey to access food, clean water, and other basic needs is long and treacherous. Once-lush landscapes have turned into vast “red deserts” and flood plains after consecutive years of droughts and severe storms.  

Stagnant water creates ideal breeding grounds for malaria-carrying mosquitoes. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Metraux.

These extreme weather events have destroyed hundreds of health facilities across the country, disrupted disease prevention campaigns, and left pools of stagnant water throughout the country that create breeding grounds for mosquitoes and other disease vectors. As a result, millions of Madagascans are at heightened risk of, and unprotected from, malaria and other infectious diseases.  

It’s no surprise therefore that malaria has surged in Madagascar over the past decade. Since 2010, malaria rates have increased six-fold – from 719,967 suspected cases in 2010, to 4,571,944 in 2021. At the heart of this problem are shortages of malaria commodities and distribution challenges. Global partners must support national efforts to reach the most vulnerable Madagascans with vital malaria prevention, diagnosis, and treatment tools.  


UN partners, including UNICEF, are working with the Madagascar’s government to deliver food, healthcare, and other basic needs to the most vulnerable, hard-to-reach communities. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Metraux.

United to Beat Malaria is working with our on-the-ground partners, UNICEF, to strengthen malaria prevention, diagnosis, and treatment in five drought and flood-affected regions across Madagascar. This 2-year project prioritizes households with children under five and/or pregnant women. In 2022, our campaign  supported the delivery of:  

  • 31,000 doses of antimalarial drugs  
  • 32,500 rapid diagnostic tests 
  • 15,500 insecticide-treated bed nets 
  • Malaria awareness campaigns, including community workshops and radio spots  

Thanks to continued contributions from our donors and partners, we continue to support these efforts in Madagascar in 2023, with the ultimate goal of protecting 135,000 children under 5 and 29,000 pregnant women from malaria. 

Stay tuned as we continue to highlight this project and the surrounding humanitarian crisis in Madagascar. In the meantime, please consider supporting our work in Madagascar by donating to our World Malaria Day campaign.

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