Madagascar: Ban calls on Government to protect civilians in face of deadly unrest

29 January 2009

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today offered United Nations support to help foster reconciliation in Madagascar where serious unrest has led to the death of dozens of people.

In a statement issued by his spokesperson, Mr. Ban voiced concern for the security of the population and deplored the loss of life. “The Secretary-General calls on the Malagasy Government to place an absolute priority on the protection of the population,” it said.

“It is up to the Malagasy parties to settle their disagreements through peaceful means and an inclusive dialogue. The United Nations reiterates its offer of support to the dialogue process and to national reconciliation.”

Meanwhile, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has rushed relief supplies to southern Madagascar where a cyclone and a tropical storm have affected 20,500 people in a region that was already struggling to recover from last year’s deadly cyclone Ivan.

UNICEF’s response started immediately after Cyclone Fanele struck on 21 January, barely two days after Tropical Storm Eric hit the Indian Ocean island, and supplies reached the region within three days. Reconstruction from Cyclone Ivan was well underway when Fanele hit, stalling existing progress.

Health kits and anti-malarial bed nets are being distributed pending further assessment on health needs. “As we are just at the beginning of the cyclone season, we were able to use our pre-positioned supply to respond quickly,” UNICEF country representative Valerie Taton said. “We are concerned about the high risk of more cyclones and are mobilizing partners to be able to continue to save lives and ensure the well-being of children.”

An estimated 9,000 children have had their classes disrupted and assessments show that approximately 158 classrooms were damaged in the cyclone. Making the resumption of regular teaching to help return students to normalcy a priority, UNICEF is providing tents for temporary classrooms and distributing 'School in a Box' kits as well as recreational kits.

Mathilde, a 12-year-old girl enrolled at the Betsipotika primary school which was damaged by the strong winds, does not want her studies to be interrupted. “We'll have to be with the other class since there are less classrooms now,” she said. “We'll have to squeeze in and it will be really hot, [but] I am willing to work hard, even at home.”

Water and sanitation issues are also being addressed and access to safe drinking water is being improved. Adequate health care is being provided in order to prevent water-borne diseases and epidemics. UNICEF will provide water purification kits, de-worming tablets, vaccines and mosquito nets.

“Getting children back to school and preventing epidemics through the provision of clean water and appropriate latrines are our most urgent priorities right now,” Ms. Taton said.

Last February Cyclone Ivan, one of the biggest ever to hit the island which is prone to frequent cyclones and tropical storms, affected more than 160,000 people, and damaged or destroyed 364 schools and over 40 health centres.


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