First food aid drop for isolated villages on island of Madagascar

Johannesburg/Antananarivo (dpa) - The United Nations Thursday delivered seven tons of emergency food aid to thousands of flood victims on the Indian Ocean island of Madagascar amid persistent downpours, aid officials said.

Supplies including sugar, rice and beans were dropped by parachute from a Transall plane to the town of Anosibe, southeast of the capital Antananarivo.

An estimated 11,000 Madagascans are in urgent need of food aid, U.N. World Food Programme representative Wagdi Othman said.

An estimated 40,000 islanders have lost their homes or crops and are or will be in need of humanitarian assistance, according to the U.N.

In the worst-hit east and northeastern parts of the island, food availability was variable and many in some areas were ''desperate for food'' having lost everything in over a month of torrential rains, strong winds and flooding in the wake of two cyclones, he said.

In one village on the island's northeast Maraontsetra territory, inhabitants lost 80 per cent of their rice crop, which represents at least six months' consumption.

Although aircraft from the WFP and the French army had been on standby since Monday, poor weather conditions had made the delivery of food impossible. This month signals the start of the island's rainy season.

The agency, which has appealed for more helicopters, intended to feed more people in remote and inaccessible villages and towns by air, he told Deutsche Presse-Agentur, dpa.

A French aircraft carrier, Jeanne de'Arc, which sailed to Madagascar from flood-stricken Mozambique with emergency food supplies and six army helicopters, left the island Monday.

Additional aircraft would also allow for aerial views of regions where landslides had damaged roads, bridges and other structures and where it was likely that communities may be in need of care, Othman said. dpa bve ms

AP-NY-03-16-00 1025EST

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Received by NewsEdge Insight: 03/16/2000 10:25:24


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