afrol News, 19 March - Several aid agencies today launched a flash appeal for US$ 8.7 million of urgent relief aid for more than 300,000 people affected by the worst cyclone to strike Madagascar in 20 years. The Malagasy government further in particular has asked the South African government for help.
- The international community must respond before people fall victim to poor sanitation, lack of food, or exposure to the elements, Jan Egeland, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, today said, urging that donors quickly come forward with support. "We have a small window of opportunity now to help people and lay the foundations for their recovery."
Cyclone Gafilo, which hit the impoverished Indian Ocean island twice in the last 10 days, killed 74 people and damaged more than 117,000 hectares of agriculturally productive land. According to the Malagasy government, parts of the affected area still are under two metres of water and beyond the reach of food and medicine supplies sent from the capital, Antananarivo.
Initial estimates suggest some 200 schools and an equal number of health centres were also damaged or destroyed by the cyclone. The Antananarivo government estimates the cyclone's total impact at more than US$ 250 million, although the costs can still not be mapped in detail.
The appeal by several UN and other agencies is designed to meet the immediate requirements of the most affected population for the next three months, with the UN World Food Programme (WFP) seeking US$ 5.6 million to feed up to 110,000 people in the period ahead.
The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) is appealing for about US$ 1.7 million for water and sanitation needs, children's nutrition, and shelter, blankets and educational supplies. UNICEF will also try to ensure that children are inoculated against measles and other diseases and that people have access to malaria prevention and treatment.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), in partnership with Catholic Relief Services (CRS), is seeking US$ 1.1 million for seeds to enable farmers to replant as soon as possible while the UN World Health Organization (WHO) needs US$ 106,000 for urgent medical supplies and facilities. The UN Development Programme (UNDP) needs US$ 69,900 to reinforce the government's capacity to coordinate relief.
- Access to affected areas remains the main concern, especially in the northwest of the country, the WFP said in an update from Madagascar today. Assessments of the situation in isolated areas of Madagascar are still ongoing, the UN agency added.
Malagasy President Marc Ravalomanana meanwhile yesterday sent an independent appeal to South Africa, asking for aid. He contacted South African President Thabo Mbeki asking for three or four helicopters to help reach cyclone victims that still are trapped in outlying areas.
President Mbeki, at an election rally, said that South Africa could not "leave the people of Madagascar to starve to death," and promised to send help. He had indicated to President Ravalomanana that the helicopters would be provided.
The cyclone Gafilo is the second to hit Madagascar this year, and at the same time the most damaging in over 20 years. An earlier cyclone, Elita, had already hit Madagascar several times between 26 January and 4 February, leaving 29 people dead, 100 injured and nearly 45,000 homeless.
The vast island is prone to natural disasters including endemic drought in the south as well as and recurrent cyclones and annual flooding affecting most other regions.
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