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UN pleads for more Madagascar aid as famine looms

UN pleads for more Madagascar aid as famine looms

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GENEVA: The United Nations pleaded Friday for more cash to help more than a million people in Madagascar threatened by what it has dubbed "the world's first climate change famine".

The UN humanitarian agency OCHA said the funding needs had tripled and that it now urgently needed $231 million to provide life-saving assistance and other aid to 1.3 million people in southern Madagascar through next May, reports AFP.

So far, however, donors had coughed up only $120 million, it said.

Spokesman Jens Laerke told reporters in Geneva that a famine had yet to be officially declared in Madagascar.

But, he warned, "people face severe hunger, including 28,000 in life-threatening, famine-like conditions."

The island nation off southeastern Africa has been hit by its worst drought in four decades, brought on by global warming.

It is currently "nearly impossible for people to grow their own food," Laerke said.

In desperation, many are eating locusts, wild leaves and cactus that normally serve as food for cattle, according to the World Food Programme.

Madagascar's Environment Minister Baomiavotse Vahinala Raharinirina warned during the UN climate talks in Glasgow earlier this month that the situation in her country was "critical."

Already people are faced with desertification and temperatures of 45 degrees Celsius "throughout the year", Raharinirina told AFP in an interview.

"The lack of water, the women who now travel 20 kilometres to fetch a container of water, these are the realities," she said.

Madagascar has always suffered prolonged dry spells, but now they are intensifying and if global heating is not halted, she said these punishing droughts could scorch three-quarters of the country by 2080, affecting some 20 million people.