Children in Madagascar suffer in yet another flood caused by latest cyclone

© 2007 CARE
Already inundated from previous cyclones, Madagascar’s northern and northwestern regions were hit by Cyclone Indlala on 15 March.

By Blue Chevigny

NEW YORK, USA, 19 March 2007 – The rain is coming down in sheets over the capital city of Madagascar, Antananarivo, in the aftermath of Indlala, the latest cyclone to hit the island nation. 

Madagascar is in the midst of an extreme cyclone season, with four major storms already having devastated the country since December, the most recent one on 15 March. Tropical Cyclone Indlala destroyed 90 per cent of the traditional homes in the northern Antlaha region where it touched down that day, as well as disabling electricity and communications, destroying many administrative buildings and ravaging the area’s crops.

According to UNICEF Communication Officer Misbah Sheikh, 293,000 families are already affected by the floods from previous storms. “With Indlala, the numbers will go up,” she adds.

Continuing impact on children

Ms. Sheikh worries about the effects on families and children in the north and northwest of the country, the regions hardest-hit by the latest storm. A rapid assessment team has been sent by UNICEF to survey the damage.

“Seventy per cent of Madagascar’s population is rural,” says Ms. Sheikh. “They live in wooden houses, sometimes with thatched roofs, so they have probably experienced a lot of damage. Children are over half of the population and are, of course, the first affected.”

© UNICEF video
Much of the population in flood-affected rural areas of Madagascar lives in wooden houses with thatched roofs that are likely to sustain serious storm damage.

In the regions of Madagascar stricken by the previous cyclones, UNICEF had already been providing relief in the form of tents, water purification supplies and water canisters, as well as nutritional support and emergency school supplies. No sooner did the situation begin to stabilize than Cyclone Indlala hit.

Ms. Sheikh says this pattern is a huge problem. “Every time we attack an emergency, another pops up,” she laments.

UN issues flash appeal

Complicating matters further, in the south of Madagascar – which is a huge country the size of France, Belgium and Luxembourg combined – an entirely different problem persists. While flooding afflicts the country’s northern and central regions, the population in the south has been overwhelmed by a severe drought, which has led to undernutrition, water and sanitation problems and a loss of agricultural livelihood.

“Where we have one region inundated with water, we have another one, in the same country, where thousands of children haven’t seen rain,” says Ms. Sheikh.

Between the flooding in the north and the drought in the south, many of the basic necessities of life – including safe water, adequate sanitation, public health, nutrition and education – are lacking, especially for vulnerable children. On 16 March, the United Nations issued a humanitarian ‘flash appeal’ to donors in an effort to raise much-needed funds to help alleviate the crisis.

For UNICEF in particular, these funds will be used in the areas of water and sanitation, nutrition, rapid assessment and educational support. “Without adequate financing, we will not be able to work as effectively to address these emergencies as they arise,” asserts Ms. Sheikh.




19 March 2007:
UNICEF Communication Officer Misbah Sheikh discusses the effects of flooding on children in areas of northern Madagascar devastated by Cyclone Indlala.
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