Madagascar: Cyclones and Floods Preliminary Appeal No: 06/2000

Situation Report
Originally published


At the request of the Malagasy Red Cross Society (MRCS), the International Federation is appealing for contributions to support the Society’s emergency relief operation in aid of victims of the two cyclones which hit the island in mid-February and early March. This preliminary appeal will be followed by a full appeal once the needs assessment has been completed and more detailed information is available. The Malagasy government has appealed for international assistance for the victims in the disaster zone.

The Disaster

The disastrous consequences of cyclones Eline (mid-February) and Gloria (early March) in the central and northern districts of Madagascar are still being assessed by the government’s National Relief Council.

The latest estimates are that approximately 205 persons have been killed, 87,000 very seriously affected (either homeless or still isolated by the floods), and another 469,000 affected to a lesser degree with damage to housing, crops and heavy livestock losses.

The situation is considered particularly critical in the areas of Moroansetra (north-east) where about 60,000 people are still isolated by the flood waters, the areas of Vatamanory, Mananoro and Marotomba (central east) where Eline entered the country, and Marondava (central west), a low-lying area where Eline exited the island and where Gloria, coming from the north-west, subsequently hit.

Public health officers of some of the affected areas report the following increases in illness during the 15-23 February period: 434 cases of malaria (the norm: 350/week), 211 cases of diarrhoea (the norm: 156/week), 135 cases of dysentery (the norm 31/week), and 475 cases of upper respiratory infections (the norm: 322/week). Action to prevent the spread of these diseases, as well as cholera, of which there has been an upsurge in recent months, is an urgent priority for the Ministry of Health. A health assessment is being initiated this week, in co-operation with WHO and other agencies.

According to the inter-agency committee, co-ordinated by the Interior Ministry, the network of public dispensaries in the affected regions has suffered 53% damage in the two cyclones. This comes against a background of impoverished hospitals, lacking basic equipment and medicines - due to Madagascar’s poor economic condition.

Additionally, Madagascar has been struggling with outbreaks of cholera, which was unknown on the island until two years ago. In the past year alone, over 1,200 deaths have been reported and some 20,000 cases treated. According to the most recent Health Ministry report (13th March), during 2000 there have been 15,173 suspected new cases, out of which 860 deaths have been reported - a mortality rate of 5.7% and a reported attack rate of 22 per 10,000 inhabitants.

A combination of stagnant pools of water and collapsed latrines has worsened a health situation which is already alarming, creating a further challenge to relief and health workers. Urgent priority will be placed on providing clean water and promoting improved hygiene and sanitation to prevent an increase in waterborne diseases.

Relief efforts have been hampered by collapsed infrastructure and limited air and road transport. Despite the reopening of some strategic roads, damage assessment is continuing, and to date, information regarding the state of both the infrastructure and economic impact of the two cyclones is not yet complete.

The Response so far

Government Action

On Thursday, 9 March, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs launched an International Appeal to assist in the purchase, transportation, warehousing and distribution of food, water purification items, medicines, hygiene articles, shelter, roof repairing items and to carry out a nutritional and agricultural needs assessment.

As of 10 March, the National Relief Council had available 426.6 metric tonnes of food supplies from national stocks and UNICEF, MSF, and WFP donations. A detailed plan for the distribution of this food has been drafted, but the pace of its implementation remains slow given the damage to infrastructure (continued flooding of many roads, and lack of air transportation resources). Some 433 mt of relief goods (including food) has been distributed to date. Of the 426 mt of food in the National Relief Council’s stock, about half has been given out, but the distribution pace is expected to improve this week with the opening of some key roads and the support of four French military helicopters launched from the French navy ship Jeanne d’Arc, and a Transall aircraft which is air dropping food particularly to areas cut-off by flood water.

Red Cross/Red Crescent Action

CHF 50,000 was released from the Federation’s Disaster Response Relief Fund (DREF) to initiate the assistance and assessment operations.

The MRCS, which has an effectively decentralised structure, has been assessing the damage and needs in close co-operation with the National Relief Council, to which it has provided three experienced volunteers to assist in carrying out the evaluation. The National Society has also helped in the implementation of the Council’s food distribution plan, and has distributed blankets and other relief items from its own limited stocks. As the potential for a worsening cholera situation is one of the country’s main concerns, the National Society is intensifying its prevention education campaign within the affected communities. There are plans by the MRCS to mobilise volunteers in four provinces.

An International Federation Delegate arrived in Antananarivo on Saturday 11 March, and is co-operating with the National Society in the preparation of a plan of action and co-ordination with Government and other agencies. A Team Leader (the Head of Delegation for Tanzania), the Nairobi Regional Health Delegate, and the Nairobi Regional Information Delegate will arrive on Tuesday, 14 March. The French Red Cross Society, who had earlier completed an assessment of the effects of Cyclone Eline, in collaboration with the MRCS and in co-ordination with Nairobi Regional Delegation, are sending a logistics delegate who will arrive on Friday, 17 March.

An aircraft loaded with blankets, kitchen sets, plastic sheeting, water purification tablets and other medical-relief articles sent by the Netherlands Red Cross arrived on Thursday, 16 March -- one of the first cargo planes carrying assistance to arrive.


Since the onset of the emergency the International Federation has been in close contact with the MRCS and will work closely with the National Society to co-ordinate all international Red Cross and Red Crescent assistance. The Malagasy government is responsible for co-ordinating relief, from the national to the local level; the MRCS is ensuring that its relief operation is co-ordinated with national and local efforts.

The National Relief Council, chaired by the Interior Minister (of which the Malagasy Red Cross is a member), continues to meet regularly with representatives of foreign governments and agencies supporting their action.

The Intended Operation

Assessment of Needs

Malagasy government officials are surveying the affected area and expect to have a reasonably complete picture of the situation and the main needs by the week of March 20-25. In a preliminary communication to the International Federation, the National Society has requested the urgent deployment of food, shelter, drugs and water and sanitation equipment. Cash to maintain the supply and delivery of relief items - and replace existing stocks - is also critical.

Capacity of the Malagasy Red Cross

The Malagasy Red Cross has 6 provincial committees, 105 departmental committees and over 200 communal committees. The Society has only 5 paid staff, with a large volunteer base in the country estimated at 4,000 people. The Society owns and operates a central warehouses in Antananarivo, with a capacity of over 150 square meters. The National Society’s experience in responding to floods and cyclones has already proved invaluable, as demonstrated by its quick reaction to this latest disaster, through the distribution of relief items and food.

Red Cross Red Crescent Objectives

Cyclones and the related consequences are a recurrent problem in Madagascar. In addition, in the past two years, Madagascar has faced cholera -- a new, hitherto unknown threat on the island. The combination of cyclones and cholera have contributed to a more devastating effect on the population which is already struggling in an environment of poverty and underdeveloped infrastructure.

For the Red Cross and Red Crescent, this implies not only concern for the immediate needs of the population in the aftermath of the two cyclones, but also a need to look into future requirements. The appropriate strategy will address the immediate (short-term) needs, as well as taking into account the mid and long-term needs. Therefore the approach will be divided into three separate phases: the emergency relief phase, the rehabilitation phase and the prevention/preparedness phase. If this strategy can be implemented successfully, the population in the affected regions will be able not only to survive the immediate affects of the disaster, but will also be assisted to return quickly to more or less normal life and be better prepared to manage diseases (cholera) and to mitigate the effects of future cyclones.

The objectives of the operation therefore will be to:

  • cover the immediate needs of the people in the most affected regions;
  • support the people in the most affected regions to enable them to resume normal life;
  • establish a basic disaster preparedness structure through the Madagascar Red Cross Society in the country to prevent cholera and to mitigate the after-effects of cyclones.
  • To achieve these objectives, the following activities will be implemented:

    Relief (March-May 2000)


    • To carry out further assessments of the situation to better identify the situation in the disaster affected regions;
    • To provide basic relief items to the most affected population in terms of food (the Government of Madagascar has calculated a standard rate per person per day of 2100 calories, consisting of 400g rice, 60 g beans and 30 g vegetable oil); shelter (plastic sheeting and tents will be provided to shelter those who have lost their houses or have to live in damaged houses; Hygiene products (soap for personal hygiene and chlorine tablets to purify polluted water and to provide clean water for human consumption); Clothes (to help those people who have lost all their belongings and are exposed to the extremes of the rainy season); and Cholera kits and emergency health kits which will be prepared to respond to the potential of a major outbreak of diseases such as cholera and malaria, and to assist the existing health service structure to cover the current cases. These kits will be pre-positioned in strategic locations to be used when needed by health services providers (governmental institutions or other organisations).

    At this point in time, it is not planned to involve the Red Cross as such in curative services, unless health hazards increase to such an extent to require the involvement of the Red Cross and an expansion in the operation.

    Rehabilitation (April-June 2000)


    • To provide basic construction materials to the affected people to enable them to repair their houses;
    • To provide seeds and tools to accelerate subsistence production as soon as the situation allows to reduce the dependency of the population on external assistance;
    • To provide basic school books and pens to about 7,000 children in the affected regions to enable them to continue appropriately with their schooling;
    • To rehabilitate damaged Red Cross buildings in the affected regions to provide for local storage capacities and centres for community mobilisation activities.

    Disaster Preparedness (June -December 2000)


    • To carry out further assessment missions to monitor the cholera situation and water and sanitation conditions in the affected regions.
    • To design a programme to establish and train action teams of the MRCS at central and branch level who will be able to function as an early warning system and to respond adequately to future disasters like cyclones and epidemics (needs assessment and data collection, monitoring and reporting, first aid, basics of logistics, shelter construction);
    • To work out a hygiene promotion campaign concentrating on community mobilisation to improve latrine construction, usage and personal hygiene;
    • To work out a disaster preparedness plan for the MRCS.

    The target areas for the Red Cross intervention will be the North-East, Central-East, South-Eeast and Central-West. The targeted districts will be: Andapa, Antalaha, Maroantsetra, Brickaville, Mahanoro, Ant-Mananpotsy, Marolambo, Midongy du Sud, Vangaindrano, Manajary, Manankara, Bel/Tsiribihina, Mahabu, Morondava, Nosivarika, Vohipeno, Tulear, Antananarivo. An estimated 100,000 people are targeted by the activities entailed in this appeal (or 20,000 families).

    Budget summary

    See Annex 1 for details.


    This disaster has left tens of thousands of people in the regions hit by the cyclones in urgent need of emergency assistance. Donors are urged to respond rapidly with cash or in kind donations, to enable the Malagasy Red Cross to continue to respond to the needs of the victims and homeless. All contributions should be directed to the International Federation in its co-ordinating capacity for all Red Cross and Red Crescent international assistance.

    This appeal will have be updated following actual development in the region to adjust the Red Cross operation to respond to the evolving needs. The speed and responsiveness of the donors community will have an influence on the scope of the operation.

    For further information please contact Josse Gillijns, phone: 730 4224, or by email:

    Didier J. Cherpitel
    Secretary General

    Margareta Wahlström
    Under Secretary General,
    Disaster Response & Operations Coordination

    ANNEX 1


    Madagascar: Cyclones & Floods

    Tents & plastic sheeting
    Construction material
    Rehabilitation of RC buildings
    Used clothes
    Rice (1200 MT)
    Beans (180 MT)
    Oil (100 MT)
    Sugar, salt, bisquites
    Water & Sanitation: soap, chlorination, jerry cans
    Medical & first aid
    Teaching materials
    Utensils & tools
    Other relief supplies
    Vehicles (1)
    Computers (2)
    Telecom. equipment
    Programme management (automatic calculation)
    Technical support (automatic calculation)
    Professional services (automatic calculation)
    Expatriate staff (5 dels. x 6 m.; 1 del. x 9 m.)
    National staff
    Travel & related expenses
    Information expenses
    Administrative & general expenses