‘Heartbreaking’ Madagascar Is Wake-Up Call to Climate Crisis | World News

By FRANCES D’EMILIO, Associated Press

ROME (AP) — The drought-stricken island nation of Madagascar is a ’wake up call” to what the world can expect in coming years due to climate change, the head of the United Nations’ food aid agency said Tuesday.

David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Program, told The Associated Press in an interview that what’s happening in the south of the Indian Ocean country is “the beginning of what we can expect” to see as the effects of global warming become more pronounced.

“Madagascar was heartbreaking,” Beasley said, referring to his recent visit there. “It’s just desperate.”″

Some 38 million people worldwide were displaced last year because of climate change, leaving them vulnerable to hunger, according to Beasley. A worst–case scenario could an see that number sore to 216 million people displaced due to climate change by 2050.

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That’s the year many industrialized nations — but not China, Russia or India — have set as their target for achieving carbon neutrality, meaning reducing greenhouse gas emissions to the point where they can be absorbed and effectively add zero to the atmosphere.

When Beasley, a former South Carolina governor, took the World Food Program helm in 2017, the top reason for people being on the brink of starvation was man-made conflict, followed by climate change, he said.

But since then, climate change has eclipsed conflicts as the driver in displacing people and leaving them not knowing where their next meal will come from. Last year, about 38 million, he said, were displaced “strictly because of climate shocks, climate change,” Beasley said.

“I would like to think this is the worst-case scenario — 216 million people by 2050 that will be migrating or displaced because of climate change,” he said.

In Ethiopia, conflict has created a man-made famine.

The World Food Program estimates that 5.2 million people are in need of of emergency food assistance in Tigray, Ethiopia’s embattled northern region. United Nations officials have warned in recent weeks that more than 400,000 people could face starvation and death if humanitarian aid isn’t delivered quickly, but hardly any aid can get to those who desperately need to eat.

The Tigray forces say they are pressuring Ethiopia’s government to lift a months-long blockade on their region of around 6 million people, where basic services have been cut off and humanitarian food and medical aid denied.

Beasley says the WFP has been “messaging to all sides, including the Ethiopian government, the leadership, that this is a crisis”‘ needing immediate access for food aid. But “we’re not making headway,” he said.

“We’re not able to get (food aid) trucks in or get fuel in. We’re not even able to get the cash to the people we need to pay,” Beasley told the AP.

As a result, Tigray’s people “have to be denying at unprecedented numbers, but we can’t get the access we need,” he said. “It’s a disgrace.”

For many of Tigray’s people, Beasley said, it has come down to “either die or migrate.”

Updated figures on the food insecurity situation in the region are expected next week, he said.

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