In southern Madagascar, more than a million people urgently need food, and thousands face dire famine conditions.

The region is normally hot and dry. But multiple years of severe drought have devastated harvests of maize, rice, and other staple crops on the African island. Massive dust storms and locusts have ravaged what few crops remain.

“There’s very little sign of water. And there’s very little sign of vegetation as well,” says Shelley Thakral of the World Food Program, which provides emergency food aid.

In the hardest-hit communities, she’s met people who have been forced to eat wild cactus leaves and tubers to survive. Rates of severe malnutrition have spiked, especially among children: “people living day in and day out, morning to night, every day, with empty stomachs,” Thakral says.

As the climate warms, southern Madagascar is expected to grow even hotter, with more frequent droughts.

“None of these people in the south have contributed to the climate crisis. They don’t drive cars. They don’t fly planes,” Thakral says.

Yet she says the people of southern Madagascar are already suffering the impacts of climate change.

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Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media