At least 92 people died and 90,000 were displaced after CycloneBatsirai landed in Madagascar on Saturday, destroying homes and farmland on the island nation even as it struggled to recover from a prior tropical storm.
The recent pattern of destructive storms has left citizens more vulnerable to failed harvests, high food prices, and increased food insecurity.
“Some 77% of Madagascar’s population live below the poverty line, and the latest blow comes during a severe drought in the south which has plunged more than a million people into acute malnutrition, some facing famine,” reports France 24.
Storms like Batsirai are expected to become more frequent because of climate change, and the impacts will continue affecting the country’s citizens with disproportionate severity despite Madagascar’s negligible contribution to global emissions, says BBC.
“Despite not being responsible for causing climate change, it is Africans who are bearing both the brunt and the cost,” said South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Batsirai followed Tropical Storm Ana—which killed 55 people and displaced 130,000—becoming the second storm to strike in two weeks. It first hit a sparsely populated agricultural area and later moved on to eastern city of Mananjary, leaving it “completely destroyed,” France 24 writes.
Flooding throughout the island cut off relief efforts to the worst affected areas after 12 roads and 14 bridges became impassable, and homes and other buildings were destroyed. Whole villages are reported to have been swept away, says BBC. A member of parliament representing the Ikongo district, which reported a high death toll, said most victims either drowned or were crushed when their houses collapsed, reports Al Jazeera.
“The roofs of several schools and health centres were blown off” in the affected areas, UNICEF said.
Madagascar’s citizens were already struggling with food shortages caused by a severe and prolonged drought. As Batsirai moved inland it ravaged rice crops and caused flooding in the country’s major food-producing region. Rice is a major dietary component in Madagascar and the crop damage will likely cause severe food insecurity. Around 1.64 million people in the country are experiencing food insecurity at a crisis level or worse, reports UN News.
“The impact of the cyclone does not end today,” said UNICEF representative Jean Benoit Manhes. “It will last for several months, particularly the impact on agriculture.”
While storm activity in the region is on track to increase, a World Weather Attribution Network report late last year found “no statistically significant fingerprint of human-caused climate change” in the severe drought and famine in Madagascar, The Associated Press reported at the time. “It’s a rare event but it’s within natural variability,” said Imperial College London climate scientist Friederike Otto. “For this type of low rainfall, climate change is not a main driver.”