- At least 17 people were killed and thousands of people were affected by Cyclone Ernest and the ensuing tropical storm that struck south-western Madagascar last week. The cyclone victims are now to get swift food aid from the UN's World Food Programme (WFP), which started sending supplies of emergency rice to Madagascar today.
According to the latest updates from Madagascar, at least 17 people were killed and 139 others are still reported missing after the two storms struck the south-western province of Tuléar (Toliara). More than 11,000 people were made homeless by the cyclone and the following storms.
WFP in a statement published today says it plans to initially assist nearly 5,285 of the worst-affected people while assessments in the region are being conducted to determine the extent of the damage.
- Everyone who has been affected by these two terrible storms will receive relief food, said Gianluca Ferrera, representing WFP in Madagascar. "We will have a better picture of what's needed in a day or two but in the meantime, food will be distributed to those who have been most critically affected by the flooding."
WFP said it had pre-positioned about 5,200 tonnes of food in and around Tuléar, from which this first tranche of 45 tons of rice was being drawn. This food was originally positioned to assist people affected by drought make it through the lean season, which also coincides with the cyclone season that runs from December until April. Tuléar Province is traditionally food insecure.
Madagascar's National Emergency Service, WFP, UNICEF and representatives from the European Union (EU) left the Malagasy capital, Antananarivo, on Sunday to conduct a two-day helicopter mission of the area. WFP has also deployed two additional staff to the city of Tuléar to coordinate the agency's response. Large parts of the city are still underwater which is also hampering relief efforts.
- Initial indications are that the damage caused from these storms has not been as extensive as that caused by previous cyclones, Mr Ferrera said. "That being said, many people will need help to start rebuilding their lives and repair their homes, and food aid will most certainly play an important role in enabling them to do this," he added.
Only last year, Madagascar was hit by one of the worst storms in the country's history when Cyclone Gafilo battered the country's north-eastern coast before traversing the country and wreaking devastation in the south. Gafilo killed 241 people and followed directly on the heels of another cyclone that had killed 29 people.
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