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UN sends disaster assessment team to Madagascar in wake of another cyclone

UN sends disaster assessment team to Madagascar in wake of another cyclone

The United Nations humanitarian arm has dispatched a five-member disaster assessment and coordination team to Madagascar, where relief operations are under way after the sixth cyclone of the season struck the island nation last week.

The team from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) will support the UN country team already in Madagascar and the African country’s authorities as they determine what emergency supplies and facilities are needed to avert further deaths and diseases.

Madagascar has been battered by six cyclone or tropical storms since December, with tropical storm Jaya striking last week, causing flooding and forcing many inhabitants to seek shelter at higher ground.

The city of Maroantsetra in the northeast was isolated by rising waters, and its airport was forced to close temporarily. But OCHA officials said they expect the flood waters to recede relatively quickly now Jaya has passed.

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has obtained more than $1.6 million in emergency supplies, although its distribution operations have been hampered by the lack of access to some of the affected areas in the country’s north. The World Food Programme (WFP) is also helping in efforts to bring aid to areas where it can be reached by cyclone survivors.

OCHA said last week that it is most concerned about a possible rise in child and maternal mortality in the wake of the storms because of malnutrition, lack of sanitation and poor access to basic health-care services. Tens of thousands of hectares of rice, the basic food source for the Malagasy, have been destroyed by the floods.

The Office described the planned national immunization and preventative health programme for the week beginning 23 April as critical and urged that it be carried out in all areas. The programme includes giving vitamin A to children and pregnant women, as well as offering de-worming treatment and measles vaccinations.