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Quick response to Cyclone Giovanna had 20,000 children back in the classroom in Madagascar

Last year, Cyclone Giovanna destroyed more than 1,400 schools along Madagascar’s east coast. Children continued to learn – in temporary classrooms.

By Daniel Timme

BRICKAVILLE, Madagascar, 13 February 2013 – Marie Helene is visiting the ruins of her former school. Among the rubble under the destroyed thatched roof, she points to where her desk used to be, before Cyclone Giovanna lashed the east coast of Madagascar and left more than 1,400 classrooms destroyed in Brickaville and Vatomandry districts.

UNICEF reports on how, after schools along Madagascar's east coast were damaged by Cyclone Giovanna, hundreds of tents keep classes going.  Watch in RealPlayer


Pitching tarpatents

Marie Helene and her classmates could have easily lost a full year of school, had it not been for the immediate support of the European Commission humanitarian aid department (ECHO), which granted UNICEF 150,000 euros for the construction of temporary classrooms. The classroom tents, called tarpatents, allow children to continue their primary education while solid school structures are being rebuilt.

Chief of the local school authority Kamisy Leonard says that 80 per cent of the classrooms in the district were destroyed. The cyclone didn’t find much resistance because the school buildings had been constructed from very light materials, such as wood and reeds.

With support from ECHO, UNICEF was able to construct 400 tarpatents rapidly to host 20,000 pupils. Four hundred fifty-one school-in-a-box kits, which provide all necessary learning materials, and 60 recreation kits were also distributed. “[Without the donations,] we would never have finished the school year,” says Mr. Leonard.

© UNICEF Video
More than 1,400 classrooms were destroyed in Brickaville and Vatomandry districts. Here, class is in session inside UNICEF-provided school tent - or 'tarpatent'.

Responding quickly

Between 2003 and 2012, Madagascar was hit by 22 cyclones that affected 3 million people, including 540,000 children under the age of 5. The impact of cyclones can be extensive, including loss of life, damage to health centres, destruction of essential medicines and education materials and damage to school infrastructure. Other problems begin once a cyclone has passed; often, wells are contaminated, and latrines are destroyed. The spread of diarrhoea and other waterborne diseases becomes an issue.

As Madagascar finds itself in the fourth year of a political crisis, most external assistance to the country has been suspended, which has reduced the capacity of Malagasy authorities to respond to such emergencies.

Rapid response can make a significant difference in a child’s life in the aftermath of such natural hazards as cyclones.

One year after Cyclone Giovanna, as Madagascar finds itself again in the middle of cyclone season, UNICEF is appealing to prepare its humanitarian response for the hazard-prone country.

For more information on UNICEF’s appeal for Madagascar, visit the Humanitarian Action for Children report on Madagascar.



In Focus: Makeshift classrooms

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