Madagascar has always had a cyclone season, but this one is particularly bad. The country has been hit by a succession of five tropical storms and cyclones, with a sixth brewing in the Mozambique Channel right now. This, according to World Weather Attribution, is a climate change disaster.
To be specific, climate change increases the rainfall intensity of cyclones and tropical storms. More rain falls at once, increasing the likelihood of flooding. It is floods that have done the most damage, both in Madagascar and on the mainland in Mozambique and Malawi. When storms come in quick succession, people are still picking up the pieces from the last storm and the damage is compounded.
Floods are also made more likely by periods of drought, ironically. The ground is hard and dry, and so water is not absorbed by the soil and runs off instead. A storm at the end of a dry spell can make things worse, washing away topsoil and flooding crops that are already weak.
The charity SEED Madagascar reports this exact phenomenon: “With the rains finally arriving after the recent drought, families unable to plant for the previous harvests quickly went out into their rice paddies and fields to plant crops. However, early hopes were quickly quashed as drought turned to floods as cyclones devastated communities across the south. Where fields and paddies had been turned into dry, cracked plains by the drought, they now turned into flood plains. Those families who had planted cassava and rice watched as the winds uprooted the young plants, and fields once again became bare – this time not through the dry drought, but through rain and floods. This is devastating for families where children are already malnourished, and families are reliant on food distributions.”
Per capita carbon footprints in Madagascar average around 0.13 tonnes – less than 1% of the 14.2 tonnes the average American is responsible for. Madagascar has contributed almost nothing to the global climate crisis, and yet Malagasy people are losing what little they have because of the climate emissions of the rich. This is why climate change is a matter of justice, and why I keep writing about it.
If you can support SEED Madagascar with a donation, they have a fundraising page here. There are bigger agencies you could support, but SEED are small, responsive, and they have a presence where few other NGOs do. At a time when Ukraine is drawing a lot of donations, and rightly so, a lot of humanitarian crises elsewhere are being overlooked. When that happens, a small gift goes a long way, and thank you to those who have supported SEED in the past.