- The thunderstorms and torrential rains that caused flooding in Madagascar earlier this month are reported to have caused great damage to the country's "food basket" region. Killing at least 25 persons, the extreme weather conditions also affected some 58,000 people and the upcoming harvests.
According to the Conseil National des Secours (CNS) update, 25 people died in torrential rains and flooding last week. Between 7 and 14 March, showers and heavy local thunderstorms aggravated flooding problems and hampered clean-up efforts in parts of Madagascar. More than 58,000 people have been affected in four regions and about 8,000 households lost their homes.
The extreme weather also could cause food security problems, according to the weekly 'WFP Emergency Report'. The floods had damaged rice paddies and destroyed homes over northern Madagascar around Lake Alaotra. Lake Alaotra is considered Madagascar's "rice basket" and accounts for about 13 percent of the country's rice production.
Over 2,600 hectares of rice paddies were ruined by the rains and flooding. According to the UN's World Food Programme (WFP), there are now fears of a second year of severe shortages of its staple food, rice in the provinces of eastern Toamasina and western Mahajanga. Madagascar is still recovering from rice shortages after cyclones Gafilo in April 2004 and Ernest in February 2005 destroyed crops.
In response to the damages caused to the national food production, the government of Madagascar has already sought the assistance of the UN agencies WFP and FAO "to study the establishment of a rice reserve to ensure sufficient availability of rice to meet the needs of the people."
- The rice reserves will be an interim measure, WFP says. The UN agency announced it soon was to undertake a feasibility study on the introduction of a rice reserve mechanism. The study was also to look into putting in place long-term measures to address chronic food insecurity and high levels of malnutrition, primarily caused by frequent cyclones, droughts and other natural disasters.
Madagascar's Minister of Agriculture met with WFP officials in Rome on 11 March, discussing the UN agency's disaster aid to his country and asking for assistance to introduce a rice reserve mechanism.
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