Madagascar: Cyclone Gafilo Appeal No. 08/04

Originally published


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In Brief


All International Federation assistance seeks to adhere to the Code of Conduct and is committed to the Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Disaster Response in delivering assistance to the most vulnerable.

For further information specifically related to this operation please contact:

- Malagasy Red Cross Society, Antananarivo; Email; Phone 261 20 22 221 11; Fax 261 20 22 66739

- Susanna Cunningham, Federation Focal Person, Nairobi; Email; Phone 254 20 271 4255;Fax 254 20 271 8415

- Josse Gillijns, Federation Regional Officer, Geneva; Email; Phone 41 22 730 42 24; Fax 41 22 733 03 95

For support to or for further information concerning Federation programmes or operations in this or other countries, or for a full description of the national society profile, please access the Federation's website at

The situation

Tropical cyclone Gafilo made landfall in the northeastern part of Madagascar on 7 March 2004 (north of the city of Antalaha), crossed the northern part of the island, and exited from the country on 8 March 2004. A day later, Gafilo returned as a tropical storm and hit the southwest where it diminished in strength, turned north over land, and finally left Madagascar heading east on 12 March, where it decreased in strength over the Indian Ocean. The present appeal comes at a time when Madagascar is still recovering from tropical cyclone Elita, which hit the island three times between 26 January and 4 February 2004, and left 44,190 homeless.

As of 15 March 2004, the Conseil National de Sécurité (CNS) reports that 74 people have been confirmed dead, 177 are unaccounted for, and 545 are injured. A ferry carrying 113 people went missing on Sunday 7 March 2004. Two passengers were rescued, whereas the others are feared dead. A fishing boat with 9 people on board has also been lost since that time. According to the government, more than 200,000 people are currently without shelter in the country.

With a speed of up to 300 km/h, cyclone Gafilo is the most intense cyclone to have hit Madagascar in ten years. Overall, the damage caused by Galifo has resulted more from flooding than from wind. Extensive wind damage is limited to the eastern coast around Antalaha where the cyclone first hit land. In Antalaha, medical doctors of the Malagasy Red Cross (MRC) and French Red Cross estimate that 85% of the houses are damaged or destroyed. Most of these were rudimentary constructions of wooden poles, mud, and thatched or zinc roofs. Houses built with solid materials remain relatively undamaged. The hospital is largely intact except for the paediatric department that was left without a roof. Medical supplies were not affected. A camp for displaced people has been set up in town where 419 people are currently residing, but in Antalaha alone some 171,000 people have been directly affected by the Gafilo cyclone. The town's harbour has been badly damaged and is not operational. Food prices have shot up by 35%. Roads and bridges connecting the town to the outlying villages are inaccessible. Electricity, water and telephone lines were cut.

The main damage caused by cyclone Gafilo is the subsequent flooding of vast areas in the north, northwest and southwest, where extensive h t e flooding has caused serious damage to vanilla, rice and banana crops. In many places the crops are expected to be totally lost, and will inevitably cause food insecurity until the next harvest in December 2004.

Shrimp harvesting an important income generating activity on the island has also suffered. Some of the concerned areas coincide with those affected by cyclone Elita, and stocks and resources have therefore been depleted in many areas. n I the absence of immediate response, an increase in water borne diseases such as malaria and diarrhoea could have an immediate occurrence, while outbreaks of cholera could be witnessed within the coming 6-8 weeks.

While emergency relief activities were focusing on the northern part of the island it became evident that Madagascar's southwest was also badly hit. A joint government/UN agencies assessment mission flew over the provinces of Morondava and Morombé, on Sunday, 14 March. Extensive areas of this region are completely flooded, and entire villages are under water. In the Morombé district thousands of people had found refuge on roofs and hilltops. The government has mobilised the gendarmerie and the army to rescue the people stranded on roofs. Floodwaters will probably start to recede in the next two weeks. Damage in the southwest is expected to be considerable. Household loss will become evident only when people have been able to return to their dwellings. While engaged in a relief operation with the French Red Cross in the north, the Malagasy Red Cross has decided to expand their emergency activities to assist 5,000 among the most flood-affected families in and around Morombé. The MRC has therefore asked the Federation for assistance.

The needs

Immediate needs:

The Red Cross and Red Crescent response to the Gafilo cyclone emergency was immediate. The Malagasy Red Cross and French Red Cross -- through the Indian Ocean Rapid Intervention Platform (PIROI) - are already active in Antalaha. There, eight technical staff, supported by 40 volunteers, are engaged in a full operation comprising water and sanitation, shelter and distribution of basic relief supplies. A French navy ship deployed a water treatment unit. Three days later the unit operated by the Red Cross started providing safe drinking water on a daily basis for up to 10,000 people. Two hundred jerry cans, chlorination tablets, tents, and 968 plastic sheets for temporary shelter were immediately distributed.

Within four days from the onset of the disaster a senior representative of the Federation's Field Assessment and Coordination Team (FACT) arrived in Antananarivo to support the Malagasy Red Cross in assessing the situation and defining their response. On 13 March an experienced member of the Regional Disaster Response Team (RDRT) from the Seychelles joined the team. Through its Geneva Secretariat and Regional Delegation in Nairobi the Federation continues to co-ordinate very closely with the French and the Malagasy Red Cross in all initiatives taken to support the affected population.

In the southwest, the MRC president is traveling to Toliara and Morombé with a Federation assessment delegate to meet the local coordinators and their teams and ensure that preparations for the emergency response are in place.

UNICEF already contributed to the Red Cross response in this region by donating 2,500 blankets, 2,000 jerry cans, 30 rolls of plastic sheeting (50 x 4 meters), 100 cartons of water purification tablets and 20 tents. The first boat transport is expected to reach Morombé before the end of the week. As soon as the waters recede, transport by road will also resume. WFP has also sent food to the southwestern region of Madagascar.

The immediate needs are food, shelter and provision of basic relief items, including clean water. Medium and long term needs will include rehabilitation and reconstruction of damaged buildings, infrastructure, and agriculture, as well as water and sanitation and health activities.


The Conseil Nationale de Sécurité (CNS) is the inter-ministerial government body in charge of coordination of emergency response in Madagascar. Ministries, UN agencies, NGOs and the Red Cross attend daily emergency meetings. UNOCHA has provided technical support to the CNS in this particular disaster in order to set up a database meant to strengthen the coordination mechanism, especially with a view to providing a rapid overview through coordinated assessments. For practical reasons the country was also divided into five reporting zones.

UN agencies have set up a working group to help the Government provide rapid assessments of the needs within five key sectors. UN agencies have assumed responsibilities for each sector: WFP for food, UNICEF for nutrition, water and sanitation, and education, FAO for agriculture and WHO for health. UNDP has offered financial support for the assessments and the results are expected this week.

The UN intends to launch a consolidated flash appeal, focusing on shelter; food assistance; health; water and sanitation; education; and coordination to cover the period up to 15 June 2004. WFP is in the process of revising the current emergency operation to accommodate the unforeseen food aid needs until the next harvest in December 2004.

Care International will distribute food provided by WFP in collaboration with local NGOs. With German Agro Action it will also be working alongside Government and FAO to assist with the rehabilitation of irrigation canals and other agricultural infrastructure, as w ell as with the distribution of rice seed.

Together with the Ministry of Health, WHO and UNICEF will address the needs within the health sector, including water and sanitation. Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and Doctors Of the World (MDM) have medical teams and medical supplies on the ground in several of the most affected areas, and will address the needs within the health sector.

According to its mandate, the Malagasy Red Cross will be mainly involved in the emergency response. The national society will address h t e immediate shelter and health needs of the most vulnerable populations identified in Antalaha (northeast) and Morombé (southwest).

The proposed operation

Objectives, activities planned, and expected results

Specific Needs

The Malagasy Red Cross operation in the Morombé areas will focus on the provision of temporary shelter and preventative health activities for 5,000 families. The specific needs concern distribution of tarpaulin, blankets, jerry cans, basic relief items (soap, candles), and water purification tablets accompanied by health education activities.

The Federation will procure 10,000 blankets, 5,000 jerry cans, 5,000 tarpaulin, and airlift these supplies to Toliara, the provincial capital closest to flood-affected Morombé. The town has an internationally-sized airport. The Malagasy Red Cross will resource water purification tablets and other basic relief items locally.

Through the planned relief operation the national society will also endeavour to strengthen the capacity of its branchesto address the coordination of relief operations in future emergencies.

Plan of action

The Federation will assist the MRC in their relief operation for 5,000 flood-affected families through the provision of non-food items, tarpaulin, jerry cans, blankets, water purification tablets and other basic relief items. Health education activities will be part of the projected distributions.

Relief Distribution

Objective 1: To provide shelter materials for 5,000 flood affected families in the Morombé region.

Activity: To procure, airlift, transport and distribute 5,000 tarpaulins and 10,000 blankets.

Expected result:5,000 flood-affected families have immediate access to shelter, have minimum protection from the effects of the environment and a minimum basic household equipment is replenished.

Objective 2: To prevent the outbreak of epidemics and water borne diseases among 25,000 of the most affected people in the Morombé region.

Activity: To procure, airlift, transport and distribute 5,000 jerry cans, water purification tablets and other basic relief items, and conduct basic health education activities.

Expected result: No epidemics occur in the area of operation and the population has immediate access to safe water and basic relief articles over the planned operation period.

Objective 3: To strengthen the disaster response capacity of MRC at headquarters, provincial and local levels.

Activities :

- To assist and guide MRC volunteers in the implementation of the relief operation.

- To conduct a lesson learning exercise at the end of the operation to capture learning and focus future disaster preparedness initiatives.

Expected result: An increased competence and confidence among MRC volunteers in managing disaster response operations and stronger MRC leadership commitment to disaster preparedness.

Procurement: Standard Federation procurement policy will be used for purchasing material on the local market. The tender document will be shared with reliable suppliers with specific deadline for marketing the items available locally.

Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement -- Principles and priorities

Communications -- Advocacy and Public information

Three Information Bulletins as well as one feature article have already been produced and published on the Federation's web site. The MRC has requested the Federation's regional delegation for assistance in strengthening their ability to disseminate and communicate Red Cross activities. The MRC cyclone and post-cyclone response provides an excellent opportunity to make the MRC known to the public. The regional information delegate will continue to assist the counterpart in formulating strategies to address the public and media. The main responsibility remains with the Malagasy Red Cross information officer who will be encouraged to travel to the affected area, document the distribution process, witness the interaction between Red Cross staff and volunteers and beneficiaries, and produce relevant articles and photographs.

Capacity of the National Society

The MRC has had experience in dealing with cyclones and floods, such as cyclone Huddah in 2000, Manou in 2003 and Elita in February 2004. The French government were impressed with the national society response to Manou and made a grant directly to the MRC for relief assistance to the Elita victims last month. MRC distributions were ongoing when Gafilo struck. The MRC have actively participated in PIROI training initiatives as well as the regional disaster management programme over the last two years.

At headquarters a programme coordinator oversees MRC activities countrywide. An MRC disaster response committee is chaired by a very experienced volunteer, who has a clear overview of national society capacity and priorities.

The MRC has coordinators in all provinces that manage relief activities carried out by 5,000 volunteers countrywide. The MRC has a competent coordinator in Toliara, the provincial capital closest to flood-affected Morombé. Warehouse space is available and volunteer mobilization is underway to help with the offloading. Ways to transporting supplies from Toliara to Morombé are being explored. The MRC branch in Morombé has very good relations with local authorities. The branch co-ordinator is a medical doctor and will be in charge of the volunteers and the relief distributions in the area.

Capacity of the Federation

The Federation's Organizational Development delegate acts as focal point for the Indian Ocean islands. There are plans for the Federation to open an Indian Ocean sub-office in June 2004. Two FACT and RDRT trained delegates were sent on short missions to Madagascar to assist MRC with the initial assessments of the situation, identification of the needs and the capacity to expand the operation beyond what had already been set in motion in Antalaha. One of the assessment delegates will stay for two weeks to support the MRC in the start up phase of the operation in the Southwest. He will ensure that policies and procedures for identification of beneficiaries, distribution and local procurement are observed and help train volunteers on the ground. The Federation is identifying a French -speaking relief delegate to take over from the current assessment team and assist the MRC through the operation and help with the final reporting.

Monitoring and evaluation

The regional logistics unit will oversee procurement and airlift. A relief delegate will monitor the in-country procurement, transportation and distribution supported by the regional disaster management department. A lesson learning review will be conducted at the end of the operation. The regional delegation will assist in all reporting procedures to ensure timely completion of the operation and submission of reports.

Budget summary

See Annex 1 for details.

Abbas Gullet
National Society and Field Support

Markku Niskala
Secretary General

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MAP - Madagascar: Persons affected (est.) by Cyclone Gafilo