Madagascar + 2 more

Floods in Southern Africa Update Fall 2000

Terrible floods this past Spring killed 650 people and affected more than two million individuals in Southern Africa, including Madagascar. Communities were devastated by the loss of homes, livestock and crops, school buildings, health clinics and roads.
"Although the floods are long gone from the headlines, Catholic Relief Services continues to work with partners overseas to assist the recovery of those worst affected, and to minimize the possibility of such devastation in the future," says Liz Keyes, Catholic Relief Services' Southern Africa Representative.

Catholic Relief Services has contributed more than $6 million for flood response activities.

Catholic Relief Services' Response

Catholic Relief Services focuses its flood response work on Madagascar, South Africa and Zimbabwe. In the initial emergency phase, Catholic Relief Services provided essential household items as well as potable water and medical supplies to those individuals most critically affected by the floods.

Now, as the region moves into a rehabilitation phase, Catholic Relief Services is developing a strategy that will meet the longer-term needs of the region. One area is livelihood recovery-since the floodwaters have receded, communities need enormous support to replant their crops, rebuild their homes and restore their communities. Catholic Relief Services will focus on housing rehabilitation, provision of seeds for farmers as well as assistance for individuals whose animal stocks were destroyed.

Another element of the strategy will include global solidarity initiatives, particularly around debt relief and educating Americans about the challenges and hopes of the people affected by the floods.


According to United Nations' estimates, 100 people died from the flooding and another 96,000 people were directly affected, specifically in provinces located in southern and eastern Zimbabwe.

In the areas of the Save and Taganda rivers, in the East of Zimbabwe, crops were swept away or completely buried under mud and sand. In Chipinge, the roads were severely damaged or obstructed by debris and a quarter of the district's population, 90,000 people, required food assistance.

Catholic Relief Services also provided food distributions, roofing sheets, wood poles, roofing nails and wire for building shelter.

Catholic Relief Services continues to coordinate relief efforts in Zimbabwe with the Catholic Development Education Office (CADEC) in Mutare diocese to reach over 15,000 beneficiaries with basic food and essential household items.

Additionally, CADEC will assist with building temporary shelters for the displaced individuals as well as help to repair and reconstruct homes in community facilities. The agency will continue to provide transportation and administrative support to those most in need.


More than 200 individuals died in Madagascar as result of the floods, with thousands more affected. Catholic Relief Services is working with partners in the Dioceses of Tamatave, Fianarantsoa and Morondava to help 90,000 people rehabilitate their homes and communities. Additional support is going to the diocese of Antalaha in its efforts to rehabilitate health centers and schools, through a food for work project that is also financed by the Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter Day Saints.

Additionally, Catholic Relief Services has helped repair damaged roads in the Ilaka Est district of Tamatave diocese through a food for work program. Catholic Relief Services will continue to work with local partners to provide technical assistance for rebuilding. Projects include health and agriculture education, repairing and reconstructing homes.

The floods affected the rice crops, the main staple, in the region of Marolambo. Food reserves are practically depleted, with many roads and bridges cut off. In Maroantsetra, local officials reported that 64,000 people were affected.

"In Madagascar, the damage inflicted by Cyclones Gloria and Eline this past Spring was complicated by outbreaks of cholera," according to Liz Keyes. "Fortunately, our program in Madagascar has expertise in handling cholera andcholera and was able to work quickly and effectively through church and government structures to respond to the cholera crisis."

The flood response strategy in Madagascar will also strengthen local capacity to respond to future cholera outbreaks, which are likely to occur during each cyclone season. In the dioceses of Tulear and Mahajanga, Catholic Relief Services has educated communities about cholera, and mobilized communities for the construction and rehabilitation of the latrines and wells that are critical to preventing the spread of cholera.

South Africa

Catholic Relief Services has committed more than $100,000 in private funds to provide housing materials, essential food commodities and essential household items to families in the north-eastern Dioceses of Witbank and Tzaneen. These areas experienced tremendous destruction to housing during the floods. All assistance will be programmed through the local Catholic Church.

Background of the Situation

Last Spring, Southern Africa suffered from the most devastating floods in the last century. South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Madagascar all suffered serious damage from the flood. Additionally, more than 650,000 people are facing food shortages related to flood-damaged crops.

Catholic Relief Services' response aims to save lives and sustain livelihoods, while strengthening civil society. Emergency specialists are working with partners to design an effective long-term response to the devastation.

Agency History

Catholic Relief Services opened its regional office based in Harare, Zimbabwe in 1989. The Catholic Relief Services program in Madagascar dates back to 1962, and has had programs in Zimbabwe and South Africa since 1989.

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