Cyclones cause heavy damage in Madagascar, threatening food security

Press Release 00/15
Rome, 13 March - Some 10,000 people have been left homeless, and more than one hundred killed in Madagascar by two recent cyclones. The island nation, off the east coast of Africa, suffered severe damage to its infrastructure, including agriculture, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said in a Special Alert released today.

The worst affected areas are northern and central parts of the East Coast including the areas around the cities of Andapa, Antalaha, Vatomandry and Mahanoro, as well as Belo-Tsiribihina and Morondava on the West Coast, according to the FAO Global Information and Early Warning System.

"The Government estimates that 560,000 persons have been affected by the cyclone damage to varying degrees. Access to these people is difficult because of damage to roads and bridges. The roads linking the main port of Tamatave to the capital city Antananarivo and to the north are damaged, seriously hampering the movement of food and other commodities within the country." Some 114 villages and cities are said to be "isolated by the floods or destruction of the transport infrastructure."

Preliminary indications point to almost total crop losses in low-lying areas, FAO said. "Serious damage to coffee plantations by heavy winds in the major growing areas of the eastern coast are reported, including those around Andapa/Sambava and Mahanoro. Banana, orange, avocado and cocoa trees have also been seriously affected. These are cash crops which play an important role in the food economies of farm families. Thousands of hectares of rice along the eastern coast strip north of Mahanoro, around Belo and Morondova on the western coast and around Antananarivo are completely flooded. The prolonged submersion and the siltation of the paddy fields could result in total crop loss in these areas. Severe damage and losses of food stocks in households will further diminish food supplies."

Overall prospects for this year's main paddy crop, normally harvested from April, were already poor before the two cyclones hit the country. The losses and yield reductions caused by the cyclones have therefore worsened the already unfavourable harvest outlook. Thus, this year's rice production is forecast to decline sharply from the good level of 1999 and the food supply situation is expected to tighten. Imports of rice, which averaged 80 000 tonnes per year over the past five years, are likely to be substantially higher in 2000/01 (April/March).

The Government has appealed for international assistance to cope with the emergency. The humanitarian situation in the affected areas is reported to be critical and there is an urgent need for international relief assistance to rescue the stranded people and to provide them with food, drinking water, medicines and other assistance. As several areas are inaccessible, airlift operations are needed to reach the isolated population.

As soon as conditions permit, FAO plans to send a mission to the country to assess crop losses and the food supply situation and to estimate the country's food import requirements, including food aid needs of the affected population.

Full Special Alert

For further information please contact John Riddle, (39-06) 5705-3259, e-mail: or Erwin Northoff, (39-06) 5705-3105,