Madagascar is continuously hit by natural disasters. Tropical storms, flooding, drought and insect infestations are all common. In the recent past, the frequency and intensity of these emergencies has increased, possibly as a result of global climate change, and represents an increasing threat to the social development of the country. Over half of the tropical cyclones that develop in the Indian Ocean affect Madagascar, most of them arriving from the east.
Over half of the tropical cyclones that develop in the Indian Ocean affect Madagascar
In 2009, Madagascar experienced a combination of significant emergencies including three major cyclones affecting more than 120,000 people. In addition, a nutrition crisis in southern Madagascar followed a drought that destroyed crops in a region already subject to chronic food insecurity.
In February 2010, tropical storm Fami struck north-eastern Madagascar; and in March 2010, tropical storm Hubert hit Madagascar’s eastern coast, killing at least 50 people and disrupting the lives of thousands. In February 2011, cyclone Bingiza struck the north-west coast, killing at least six people and extensively flooding farmland.
Not all emergencies however, are natural. A political crisis triggered in January 2009, saw unrest spill onto the streets of Madagascar’s capital, Antananarivo. With the onset of the political turmoil many children were exposed to episodes of violent social disturbances, and left vulnerable to the consequences of the social disruption that followed.
In the context of the ongoing political crisis, the national response to natural emergencies has been limited. Many children and women in affected areas are without sufficient medical services or support to maintain their often already fragile health and nutrition conditions.
Meanwhile, high levels of poverty further exacerbate the devastating consequences of natural disasters. Damage from cyclones is typically large in scale, in particular for social infrastructure such as schools and health centres, in a country where these basic services are already minimal.
Children and climate change