In Madagascar’s deep south, 1.35 million people, including 100,000 children, could fall victim to malnutrition this year, as the worst drought in a decade grips the region.This remote region has witnessed 16 famines since 1896, eight of which occurred in the past four decades. Most were the direct result of rainfall deficits, but misguided or failed policies have deepened the distress.This year, with crop failures, pandemic-related restrictions curbing access to markets, and sharp increases in prices of essentials, food has remained out of reach for thousands.Such droughts and the attendant famines are likely to become more frequent due to climate change, producing more hunger and distress in one of the poorest countries in the world. Aid agencies amass nutrition data diligently from the scorched south of Madagascar. But on the ground, the sale of kitchen utensils is a real red flag for aid workers — a signal of surrender to unrelenting days of hunger. Amid a global pandemic in this unheeded corner of Africa, people are struggling with the worst drought in a decade. Gaston Manantana, head of the village of Talaky Bas in Tsihombe district. Image courtesy of Sedera Ramanitra/Catholic Relief Services. Water is a luxury most years. Prickly pear cacti (Opuntia spp.), a rare plant that can survive the aridity, is a food staple. Gaston Manantana, head of Talaky Bas village in Tsihombe district, told Catholic Relief Services (CRS) staff that his community is resigned to eating fruit from the spiky plant to keep pangs of hunger at bay. This year the cacti are a luxury too. “Most of the cactus have dried up. Can you imagine that even our usual coping method is short? To us, this year is probably the worst,” Manantana said. Elsewhere, there are reports of villagers eating clay to survive. Children with too little to eat and too-big bellies dying. According to one estimate, in the deep south, 1.35 million people, including 100,000 children under 5, could fall victim to malnutrition in the coming months. Source: Integrated Food Security Phase Classification. Disclaimer: The information shown on this map does not imply official recognition or endorsement of any physical and political boundaries. All national population figures are based on official country population estimates. IPC estimates are those published in country IPC reports. It is acknowledged that, in some cases, due to rounding and process related issues, figures at subnational level or for specific IPC Levels may not add up to totals. Madagascar, known the world over for its natural riches — more than 100 species of lemurs, enviable rates of endemism — is also beset with heart-sinking levels of poverty. The market capitalization of U.S. tech giant Facebook is more than 40 times Madagascar’s national income. The company’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, alone is five times richer than the island nation. The deep south of the club-shaped island, a cluster of nine districts spread across three administrative regions, is rain-starved and remote. In one pocket, a fifth of the population hadn’t heard of COVID-19, according to a CRS survey done in October. For the inhabitants, there’s a more pressing danger: starvation.