Madagascar: Rated R (for rain)

Dream Works Animation
madagascar food relief
Madagascar Feeding Station (source IRIN)

Mention “Madagascar” and most likely the first response from media-savvy kids will be “Oh, which movie? The first, second or third? Or, which TV program?”

Type “Madagascar” into Yahoo Search and you land on a “results” page headed by “Travel Madagascar”, followed by links to hotels, vocation deals, Lonely Planet and then the animated films and the multi-million dollar TV spin-offs. Though most people couldn’t find it on a map, Madagascar’s “image” is all fun, adventure and laughs.

Not so, reports the World Food Program (WFP).

It’s hard for Madagascar to get the help it needs as it’s “a bit lost in the ocean”, explained Willem van Milink, the country’s WFP representative.

Madagascar is “off the map” and forgotten by the international community, say aid workers. Its food crisis is grinding and constantly severe but lacks the dramatic numbers or cataclysmic event needed to gain significant relief and development attention from donors.

The severe, multi-year drought which 80% of Madagascar’s 23 million people are experiencing, is only a symptom of climate change and more directly from El Nino and deforestation.

Ironic as it is, my bet is that there are many parents of the kids who have seen the animated “Madagascar” who may think climate change is as real as the movies.

According to the Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN), in a story posted this week, more than 1 million children, global peers of the Madagascar cartoon-watching kids,  are suffering today from malnutrition, and dying.

All this to say…what? How unfortunate it is that yet another country’s children are suffering starvation? The WFP must do more? The world’s humanitarian organizations need to step it up and donor nations need to keep their commitments? Is this all we can say? Or, Do?

Around the globe there are countless “Madagascars” – places, small and large, urban and rural, on and off reservations – which are the first to see, feel and suffer the effects of global warming, climate change, or whatever the latest most correct terms are that, in themselves, are less “abrasive” more “appropriate” or “politically acceptable” as the world spins more and more stories like this one…every day.

Know what I wish? That every “Madagascar” movie fan would know what is really going on in this large, yet forgotten, island nation in the Indian Ocean.

What would parents say to their kids about the kids in Madagascar as the movie credits roll by accompanied by dance-able fun, music?

Here’s one fun fact for a parent to say: “Hey kids, those funny lemurs in the movie? Well, they really do live on Madagascar. But, guess what, they are about to go extinct because the people have resorted to eating them because they are starving.”

The IRIN story quotes one father in Madagascar who said this…“We have nothing left to grab on to …We are just waiting for death to come.”

What does he say to his children?

The Unlikely Student




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