28 February 2013

Madagascar: Volunteers Respond to Storms and Floods

On the morning of 22 February, tropical cyclone Haruna slammed into the southwest coast of Madagascar, bringing with it heavy rains and winds of over 170 kilometers per hour. But the storm didn't there, as it crashed across the entire Big Island, it left many villages and communities flooded.

The country's west coast is much less exposed to the risk of cyclones, but this means the residents are more vulnerable as they are not used to such disasters.

Government figures indicate more than 18,000 people have been affected, including 24 who died. More than 1,100 homes were destroyed and critical infrastructure such as schools, government offices, health centres and roads were damaged. In Tulear, the main city in the southeast, a dam break flooded several districts, forcing mass evacuations of thousands of people. Vital maize and rice crops have been severely damaged.

About 200 volunteers with the Malagasy Red Cross Society, many of whom were also affected by the flooding, leaped into action, providing assistance to their neighbours, conducting evacuations, managing camps and providing psychosocial support where needed. As well as distributing blankets and tarpaulins, volunteers are also helping to provide clean water. With contaminated water still running through the streets or stagnating in small ponds, the possibility for the spread of diseases like malaria, cholera and acute diarrhoea increases. The Red Cross volunteers are now conducting hygiene campaigns in the camps to reduce the risk of disease.

The Platform for Regional Intervention in the Indian Ocean of the French Red Cross (PIROI) was activated, and is sending 35 tons of materials by ship directly to Tulear. Materials include 1,500 housing kits and water treatment centres. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has also tapped into its emergency funds, releasing money to support 10,000 people over the next four months. Once the shipment reaches Tulear early next week, Red Cross volunteers will be on hand to distribute it.

The main needs continue to be temporary shelter, food, water and sanitation. As the situation evolves, the Malagasy Red Cross volunteers continue to slosh through saturated streets, conducting assessments to provide a true picture of the gaps in service that still exist.

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