[Note: World Weather Attribution released an analysis of the Madagascar famine on Dec. 1, 2021, finding that climate change was not the driving cause. Read more here.]

Madagascar is on the brink of moving from a devastating drought and catastrophic food insecurity to widespread famine caused by climate change, the United Nations warns. In the island nation that has gone four years without rain, 30,000 people are currently experiencing level 5 (of 5) food insecurity as the country enters its “lean season” before the harvest. “These are famine-like conditions and they’re being driven by climate not conflict,” said the UN World Food Programme’s Shelley Thakral.

The situation is especially dire in the southern part of the country where the Economist reports desperately hungry families are selling their underage daughters to buy food. Tamaria, a single mother of four, who goes by one name, told the BBC she and her children had eaten nothing but locusts and cactus leaves for eight months. “I clean the insects as best I can but there’s almost no water,” she said. “What can I say? Our life is all about looking for cactus leaves, again and again, to survive.”

Madagascar has become increasingly arid, a trend “expected to increase if climate change continues,” Dr. Rondro Barimalala, a Madagascan scientist working at the University of Cape Town, told the BBC, citing the recent IPCC report. “This is unprecedented. These people have done nothing to contribute to climate change,” Thakral said. “They don’t burn fossil fuels… and yet they are bearing the brunt of climate change.” (BBC, Economist, EuroNews, The Independent; Climate Signals background: Drought)