Madagascar + 1 more

Floods in Southern Africa Update 03 Apr 2000

Southern Africa's flood zone is continually threatened by forecasts of additional rain to the region where more than two million people have been affected.
Catholic Relief Services has committed $450,000 in response to the emergency and the agency is working with local church partners throughout Southern Africa.

Catholic Relief Services' Response

Catholic Relief Services continues to support relief efforts in Madagascar and Zimbabwe, providing essential household items as well as potable water and medical supplies to those individuals most critically affected by the floods. The number of deaths in the region is now estimated at 800.


According to United Nations' estimates, 100 people have died from the flooding and another 96,000 people have been directly affected, specifically in provinces located in southern and eastern Zimbabwe. As many as 20,000 of those most critically affected, are in temporary shelters and camps. Many of the displaced people have refused to return home and wish to be relocated due to fears that there will be more flooding.

In the areas of the Save and Taganda rivers, crops have been swept away or completely buried under mud and sand. The roads into Chipinge have also been severely damaged or obstructed by debris.

In Chipinge, a quarter of the district's population, 90,000 people, are going to require food assistance. Food distributions are anticipated to continue through the next six months. The next harvest for this region is in August. Medical supplies are also in urgent supply. Catholic Relief Services has provided roofing sheets, wood poles roofing nails and wire for building shelter.

Catholic Relief Services is also coordinating relief efforts in Zimbabwe with the Catholic Development Education Office (CADEC) to reach over 15,000 beneficiaries with basic food and essential household items. CADEC will also assist with building temporary shelters for the displaced individuals as well as help to repair and reconstruct homes in community facilities. Additionally, the agency will continue to provide transportation and administrative support to those most in need.


In the villages of Marosiky and Ambodivandrika in Madagascar, Catholic Relief Services is helping approximately 4,500 disaster victims The agency has delivered plastic sheeting, candles, matches and soap to over 500 families in the villages.

In the areas in the northeast, flooding and the additional rains from cyclones Eline and Gloria have hit the districts of Sanbava, Antalaha and Maroantsetra particularly hard. To date, of the 500,000 people affected by the floods in Madagascar, 42,000 still are in need of immediate assistance.

Additionally, Catholic Relief Services will assist by clearing over two miles of road through a food for work program. It will also provide potable drinking water to the villages. Catholic Relief Services will work with local partners to provide technical assistance for rebuilding. Projects include health and agriculture education, repairing and reconstructing homes and short-term food for work programs.

The communities and villages in the regions of Marolambo, Antanambao-Mananpotsy, Mahanoro, Andapa and Maroantsetra are still isolated due to the flooding. Medical attention is urgently needed in these areas. More than 200 individuals have died in Madagascar.

An aerial survey conducted by Catholic Relief Services, in conjunction with US Agency for International Development and John Snow Inc., revealed extensive damage to a key railway between Sahasanaka and Manampatrana. A rehabilitation program for the railway bed may be needed. The railway is expected to open in July.

The floods have affected the rice crops, the main staple, in the region of Marolambo. Food reserves are practically depleted, with many roads and bridges cut off. Many individuals are still isolated by floodwater and only reachable by helicopter.

In Maroantsetra, local officials reported that 64,000 people are affected. Access to markets and health centers continue to be a critical issue. The west coast of Madagascar still is suffering from above average water levels that are not expected to recede until late June - July.

The agency supports the establishment of a Crisis Relief Desk through the Development and Welfare Agency of the Southern Africa Bishops Conference. This effort was designed to improve the diocese's disaster response capacity.

Catholic Relief Services' response aims to save lives and sustain livelihoods, while strengthening civil society. "Emergency specialists are in the region and supporting our partners. These individuals are helping our partners respond to the emergency, and continue to reach as many people as possible," says Will Campbell, Catholic Relief Services' Southern Africa Representative.

Working with Caritas Internationalis and CIDSE partners, Catholic Relief Services is helping to organize emergency preparedness training for local church and government organizations, responding to immediate human needs for food, water, health care and shelter.

Background of the Situation

Southern Africa is suffering from the most devastating floods in the last century. South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Botswana have been disfigured beyond recognition and have suffered serious damage from the flood - almost all infrastructures have been reduced to mud. The biggest threat to the more than one million people that have been displaced by the latest wave of floods is malnutrition, particularly among children.

Catholic Relief Services will continue to assist with the recovery and rebuilding stages over the long-term.

Thousands of refugee children have either lost or been separated from their parents. "It will take the region decades to recover. Our local partners are completely overwhelmed and are in desperate need of assistance," explained Campbell. The ongoing relief assistance focuses on delivering food, clean water, and medicine as the floodwaters recede.

Agency History

Catholic Relief Services has had a regional office based in Harare, Zimbabwe since 1989 and has been working with local Catholic partners in the region for more than 10 years.