4 December 2020

In the far south of Madagascar, elderly “Catherine” wondered why her younger relatives did not turn up for their regular monthly visit. But she had no way to contact them, so she just waited until the next month. Again, no visitors. Catherine decided to investigate. Travelling by ox-cart, she made the journey of 75km from her remote village to the even remoter village where her relatives lived, and found that the whole family – parents and three children – were dead. They had died of starvation, just a few days before she arrived.

Christians are so hungry in famine-stricken south Madagascar they are eating ashes and, every day, people are dying of starvation

This particular family had made their living selling charcoal. Catherine realised that when their oxen grew so weak from hunger they could not get the charcoal to town to sell it, and their income disappeared. By this time, the family themselves must have been already too weak to walk, so they could not seek help.

The lives of children, the elderly and other vulnerable people are especially at risk

“Longing for a plate of rice to survive”

“This story is being repeated all over the far south of Madagascar,” wrote a church leader to Barnabas Fund earlier this week. Every day people are perishing from starvation in this poorest region of a country reckoned to be one of the five poorest countries in the world. “They are longing for a plate of rice to survive,” he said.

Southern Madagascar has not had a rainy season for the last two years. People in some parts are eating ashes flavoured with tamarind, just to put something in their stomachs. Covid-19 is rife and, since there is almost no water, people cannot wash to protect themselves from the virus.

Our project partners in Madagascar have calculated that 3,500 people are in the most urgent need, their lives hanging in the balance.

Barnabas has already sent a first emergency grant to buy rice, beans and water – will you help us to keep giving? Will you help us to save lives?

The Malagasy churches are taking responsibility for transport costs and will provide strong men (i.e. not weakened by hunger) to help distribute it.


“Share a little of our Christmas blessings with our brothers and sisters”

“Christmas can start to have meaning for them if perhaps we would like to share a little of our Christmas blessings with our brothers and sisters there,” wrote the church leader from southern Madagascar. “Of course Madagascar is not the only place suffering, this year has been tough for us all and you may not be able to help – but you will forgive me for letting you know the need, and we can of course pray that enough people will respond to help them through, that rain will come – the whole area has no access to water, the water tables are dried up by this lack of rain…”

A Madagascan Christian household can be kept alive by providing basic rations of water and rice, along with hygiene items. Please help

Life-saving rice and water

Catherine’s relatives were a rather small household for rural parts of Madagascar. Most households have at least seven people and some are much bigger. But for only £37 ($50; €41) you can provide rice to keep a typical household of ten people alive for a month.

Water is more expensive, at least in local terms. Just 7.5 litres per person per day is the minimum survival amount recommended by the World Health Organisation to cover consumption, cooking and hygiene. Providing this in southern Madagascar would cost £56 ($75; €62) per month for a household of ten.

That means, for just 32p ($0.42; €0.35) you can provide food, water and hygiene to keep a Malagasy Christian alive for a day

Please give now.

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