Madagascar picks up the pieces

From WEEKLY NEWS 12/00 23 March 2000
Three weeks after a second tropical cyclone hit the Indian ocean island of Madagascar, an elderly Malagasy woman lies asleep in the wreckage of her house in Vatomandry on the east coast. It is a forlorn sight. The wooden walls had collapsed inwards and the corrugated iron roof had buckled in the fury of cyclone Eline which tore through Madagascar in mid February. Just a few weeks later, cyclone Gloria swept across vast areas of the island, causing even greater havoc by doubling back in some parts.

Now the most vulnerable inhabitants of Vatomandry are beginning to pick up the pieces of their lives. To help them along, they are given blankets, kitchen sets, plastic sheeting and water purification tablets, part of a 40 ton shipment of aid donated by the Netherlands Red Cross and flown in just days before. "We are grateful for anything we can get," one man said, as he salvaged wooden planks from the river bank near where his home once stood in Brickaville, further up the coast. But the inhabitants of Vatomandry were relatively lucky. "We only got hit once," said Madame Jeannette Razanamala, who heads the local branch of the Malagasy Red Cross. "On the west coast, cyclone Gloria delivered a double dose of turmoil for people in Morondava." A Federation appeal launched last week to assist 100,000 of the worst affected people in Madagascar will provide immediate relief for the victims and will establish a rehabilitation programme for the next nine months. Part of the appeal will fund the distribution of food. Shelter and clean water and sanitation facilities will also be the backbone of a long-term rehabilitation plan. As in Mozambique, the Red Cross will also be working on preparing for the next disaster. "Being prepared is crucial," says Madame Razanamala, "despite the sense of déjà vu about cyclones - we're always caught unawares - and it's the poorest, who are forced to build their homes too close to flooding rivers who suffer most."


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