Madagascar

Helping Madagascar Cyclone Victims

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As yet another cyclone batters the Indian Ocean island of Madagascar, residents are still trying to come to terms with the effects of two previous ones.
Cyclones Eline and Gloria left Marie, her disabled teenage son, Jean-Luc, and thousands like them, without homes and livelihoods. Marie and Jean Luc used to live in a one-room wooden house on the river bank at Brickaville on the east coast. To make ends meet, she grew rice on the bank below her house and did the laundry for her neighbours - in the river. Now, living in a tiny shack on higher ground, she says: "I have lost all my belongings as well as my rice crop, which was going to keep us alive over the next few months."

An appeal launched by the Red Cross in March to assist 100,000 of the worst affected people in Madagascar will bring immediate relief in the form of food, shelter, soap and water purification tablets. Providing clean water and sanitation facilities will also be the backbone of a long-term rehabilitation plan.

The inhabitants of Ilaka Est, further south, fear that cholera, which only arrived on the island's west coast two years ago, may spread in their direction. Already living in conditions of dire poverty, the villagers saw their homes badly damaged when cyclone Eline hit.

Jeannette Razanamala heads the local Malagasy Red Cross operating under difficult conditions. Despite not having an office, she and her helpers are determined that blankets and kitchen sets donated by the Netherlands Red Cross will reach the really needy.

Above all, there is an appreciation for any help that will prepare the country for future cyclones. "We welcome any assistance in preparing against disasters - cyclones are frequent visitors - we need to know how to help the poorest , who are always the worst affected," she said.

=A91997 International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies