Madagascar: Red Cross assists victims of cyclone

Published: 25 February 2008 0:00 CET

Mbolatiana Ranaivomanana, Malagasy Red Cross Society

As Madagascar continued to recover from destruction brought by cyclone Fame in late December 2007, another cyclone - Ivan - hit the island on 17 February. With winds of up to 230 kilometres per hour, Ivan caused major damage and many casualties, especially in the country’s east.

According to the latest figures released by the National Office of Disaster Preparedness, 44 people were killed by Ivan, with 478 people injured and 17 still unaccounted for. In all, 210,852 were directly affected, with 147,719 left homeless. Approximately 15,880 hectares of rice paddy was also destroyed along with more than 40,000 hectares of other crops.

Malagasy Red Cross volunteers were mobilized as soon alert about the cyclone was first raised on 15 February. Sensitization campaigns took place before the cyclone made landfall, with volunteers going house-to-house to tell local communities how to act before, during and after the storm.

After Ivan hit, the same volunteers were also involved in emergency operations and in evaluating the storm’s damage. Other more specialised teams also went into action to conduct more detailed evaluations. A total of 140 volunteers were mobilized by Malagasy Red Cross in seven districts in the eastern part of the country.

Besides evaluating damages, the Malagasy Red Cross also received extra help from the French Red Cross which mobilized its regional intervention platform in the Indian Ocean (PIROI) to provide major logistical support. Twelve tonnes of material was sent from the main centre on La Reunion Island, including tarpaulins, tool kits, generators, water tablets and other emergency items.

Some of these supplies were sent to Sainte Marie to help local communities and authorities begin to recover. The city of Sainte Marie, on the country’s east coast, was one of the regions most severely hit by cyclone Ivan with 14 people injured, 16, 530 affected people, 9,626 losing their homes. There are also a total of 186 flooded houses and 3,464 roofless houses. Other supplies will be distributed in other areas following the outcome of ongoing assessments.

Also in the eastern part of the country, the Malagasy president made a donation of 8 millions of ariary (about 4,700 Swiss francs) to Malagasy Red Cross local branches along with 20 tonnes of rice. Thanks to this, the Red Cross has been able to distribute emergency items to 1,207 families, with each family receiving 16 kilograms of rice, 500 grams of salt, 1.5 litres of oil, two bars of soap, a candles and a lighter.

In other areas, including in the western part of the island, the Red Cross helped with medical screening of affected people as well as housing and helping to distribute food being provided by other agencies.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies will shortly release funds from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund to support Malagasy Red Cross in its emergency operation.