Red Cross mobilizes teams as flooding inundates Madagascar

Published: 10 March 2015 6:00 CET
Heavy flooding across Madagascar has damaged or destroyed more than 4,800 houses, forcing families to flee to higher ground. The Malagasy Red Cross has already constructed 80 temporary shelters to help those who are displaced. Photo: MRCS

With more heavy rains expected this week, the Malagasy Red Cross Society has teams and materials positioned and ready to respond to growing needs following already extensive flooding which has left thousands homeless.

According to the national disaster management office, more than 93,000 people have been affected by the flooding which began when a tropical storm hit the island nation in mid-January. Water sources have been damaged or destroyed, as have more than 4,800 houses. People are seeking shelter wherever they can, including schools. The capital Antananarivo is the most greatly affected, with 35,000 people forced to leave their homes. Following damage to the Sisaony dam, flooding in the region has worsened in recent days. An estimated 6,500 hectares of rice fields are under water. Twenty-two towns remain on high alert, ready to evacuate should this week’s expected rains lead to rising waters. At least 25 people have lost their lives.

Through the release of Disaster Relief Emergency Funds (DREF) from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the Malagasy Red Cross Society has deployed volunteer teams to the affected sites, where they have built 80 emergency shelters in Grand Tana, using prepositioned stocks by the Indian Ocean Platform for Regional Intervention (PIROI). Teams are involved in conducting damage assessments and sharing messages with communities to ensure they remain on alert for the possibility of further flooding and the need for evacuation.

To date, PIROI has delivered 57 tonnes of emergency supplies from warehouses in Antananarivo and Reunion to support the Malagasy Red Cross Society in responding to the crisis.

The DREF is aimed at supporting 15,000 people affected by the flooding.

Given the damage done to water points, responders are particularly concerned about the outbreak of water-borne diseases. Red Cross teams are assisting in delivering potable water and conducting hygiene promotion sessions with those living in temporary sites.

The country is already dealing with an outbreak of the plague which has killed 40 people. According to the World Health Organization, fleas which transmit the disease from rats to humans have developed resistance to the insecticide used as the first line of defence.

To prevent the plague from spreading through temporary settlements where those affected by the flooding are housed, local Red Cross volunteers have been raising awareness on people can protect themselves from the plague, reaching almost 6,700 people to date. They have also been involved in helping to clean up sites, and are monitoring people for signs of sickness and sending them for treatment.

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