Global perspective Human stories

With sixth cyclone on way, UN readies aid for hundreds of thousands in Madagascar

With sixth cyclone on way, UN readies aid for hundreds of thousands in Madagascar

With some 450,000 people in Madagascar already in urgently need of shelter, food, drinking water, medication and school supplies due to five cyclones this season, and a sixth one on the way, United Nations agencies have set up three operational bases to avert further deaths and disease in the world’s fourth largest island.

“The main problem is the affected population’s access to healthcare, potable water and sanitation facilities,” UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) country representative Bruno Maes said.

“Given the immediate needs of the population, UNICEF is contributing to risk prevention for diseases such as diarrhoea, respiratory infections, measles and malaria. Diseases such as these, can lead to a very high number of casualties given the current situation. An increase in malnutrition is also an exacerbating factor, especially for those who are more vulnerable such as women and young children,” he added.

To be in a better position to provide immediate aid, UNICEF and the UN World Food Programme (WFP), with the support of the Government and their partners, have set up two bases in the northern part of the Indian Ocean country, and a third in the south, which has been struck by floods and also recurrent droughts.

“Natural disasters continue hitting Madagascar, affecting hundreds of thousands of people with another cyclone, Jaya, on the way,” Mr. Maes said. Tens of thousands of hectares of rice, the basic food source for the Malagasy, have also been destroyed by floods. The affect of this has been difficult to measure, but with the increased food insecurity and shortage, there is the risk of increased malnutrition.

Communication infrastructure, roads, schools and health centres have been badly damaged.

UNICEF’s response has been focused on three key areas: health and nutrition; water, hygiene and sanitation; and education. WFP and UNICEF are together conducting regular needs assessments. Logistical operations are also being carried out simultaneously, which allows for effective transportation of food and non-food items to the affected villages that are often in inaccessible areas. These goods include tents, soap, water treatment products, buckets, school supplies, high-protein biscuits, rice, dry vegetables and oil.

“UNICEF and its partners have the responsibility to bring back hope to the lives of those families who have lost everything, and help them to return to a normal life, without further delay, including access to basic social services,” Mr. Maes said.

According to the UN Development Programme (UNDP) Human Development Report, over 70 per cent of Madagascar’s 18 million people live below the poverty line.