The UN Disaster Management Team (UNDMT) in Madagascar said on Tuesday an urgent appeal would have to be launched to get fresh assistance to people in the giant Indian Ocean island 400 km off the coast of Mozambique.
In both countries, people living along the trajectory of the new cyclone, classified by weather officials as the most powerful of its kind, have already been dependent on humanitarian assistance for over six weeks since the devastation wrought by cyclones Eline in February, and Gloria last month.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS) reported a precarious food security situation for people living in areas swept by floods and heavy rains brought on by the cyclones.
With clouds and strong winds reported on Tuesday to be reaching the Mozambique coast near the central town of Quelimane, the South African Weather Bureau said the full force of the new cyclone was likely to be felt overnight as it picked up speed over the Mozambique Channel.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) cited preliminary information indicating that the northeast town of Antalaha, renowned for its vanilla plantations, had been "severely damaged" when the new cyclone swept through on Sunday and Monday.
Madagascar's Prime Minister Tantely Andrianarivo flew to Antalaha on Tuesday morning to meet with local officials and tour the town, according to news reports. OCHA also said the town of Andapa, 100 km inland, had also been hit.
Officials said the weather had cleared sufficiently on Tuesday to enable UN agencies and their partners to undertake an aerial assessment of the disaster zone.
New plan of action
The UNDMT announced a new strategy to help alleviate the suffering of tens of thousands of people. It said it would help the government relief agency, the Conseil national de secours (CNS) survey the new disaster zones.
"Given the hilly nature of the area and possible delays in completing the survey within a reasonable time frame, the UN disaster management team has come to a conclusion that an urgent appeal be launched for food, water purification equipment, health kits, blankets for about 10 to 20 percent of an estimated population of the area of 500,000 people," OCHA said in a statement.
It estimated that medium-size planes would be needed to get relief to the affected areas. It said two light helicopters would also be needed to reach out to isolated areas from bases at Mahajanga in the northwest and Sambava in the northeast.
OCHA said US $50,000 from the UK Department For International Development's (DFID) emergency fund had been made available to the UN Resident Coordinator for immediate relief purposes.
OCHA said it was prepared to serve as a channel for cash contributions for immediate relief needs. Funds channelled through OCHA would be spent in coordination with the relevant organisations of the UN system. OCHA said it would also provide written confirmation of their use. Funds should be transferred to OCHA Account No. CO-590.160.1 SWIFT-code UBSWCHZ12A - at the UBS AG, PO Box 2770, CH-1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland, with reference: OCHA - Madagascar - Cyclone 2000.
The areas worst affected
In a separate statement on Tuesday, WFP said: "Cyclone Hudah hit the island in the same region where Tropical Storm Gloria passed one month ago. Two weeks before Gloria, Cyclone Eline destroyed the homes or crops of more than 40,000 people on much of the eastern part of the island."
The FAO report cited preliminary indications of serious damage to coffee plantations, fruit trees and rice crops in low-lying areas.
"FAO-WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Missions are scheduled to visit Madagascar and Mozambique shortly to assess the impact of weather hazards on food production and the food supply situation and estimate the cereal import requirements, including food aid, for the next marketing year starting April 2000," it said.
With cyclone Hudah about to make landfall in Mozambique as the country recovers from the worst floods in living memory, the FAO early warning report said the damage caused by the first two floods already indicated a precarious food security situation in Mozambique for at least another year.
The Mozambique disaster management authority, the Instituto Nacional Gestao de Calamidades (INGC), said it was monitoring the cyclone's progress closely.
Dr. Silvano Langa, head of the INGC, said there was concern that there could be new flooding in the northern provinces of Nampula, Cabo Delgado and possibly Zambezia. News reports quoted him as saying he also feared further damage to homes and cashew nut crops.
"We are warning the population to take precautionary measures to stay indoors and secure their fishing boats and other possessions," he said.
The FAO said latest estimates indicated that 1.9 million people in Mozambique have been affected by the disaster with major losses of crops and livestock reported in the southern and central provinces of Maputo, Gaza, Inhambane, Manica and Sofala.
"In these traditionally food-deficit provinces, the sharp reduction in cereal production will be compounded by loss of farmers' food and seed stocks," it said. "As a result the food security situation of the affected populations is likely to remain precarious until the next harvest in April 2001."
The humanitarian community reported on Tuesday that river levels throughout southern and central Mozambique were static or receding, even though several were still above flood alert levels.
They reported sporadic rains were still flooding air fields, roads and slowing urgent repairs along several key highways. Vast areas were still under water.
But WFP warned: "Conditions could change again if Cyclone Hudah, crossing to Mozambique from Madagascar, results in further heavy rains in northern and central Mozambique."
WFP, which is currently assisting an estimated 561,000 flood victims in Mozambique, said it was making contingency plans in case the new cyclone and further rains forced it to ground helicopters and aircraft.
"Some 60 percent of the WFP food delivered in the past week was transported by road and boat," it said. "This represents a significant increase in land and sea transportation as compared to the initial weeks, when air transportation accounted for 75 percent of the deliveries. Air capacity coordinated by the joint logistics centre has decreased from over 53 to 34 aircraft at the end of March."
In further cost saving measures, WFP said that in Gaza Province, food was being delivered to Chokwe by road for onward air delivery to other flooded areas in the province.
Donor contributions still required
It said contributions worth US $24 million still had to be pledged by donors to cover the food requirements of 650,000 people in coming months. "The food pipeline for April looks fragile for cereals, but adequately covered for pulses, oil, corn-soya blend, salt and sugar. Additional maize needs to be purchased locally or regionally to meet needs in April and contributions of dried skimmed milk are also required."
It also cited air transport and road repair "shortfalls" amounting to US $11 million. Contributions were required to allow the delivery of relief assistance to areas still not accessible by road or boat, through the month of April. As water levels decrease and the rainy season comes to an end, WFP will carry out essential repairs on access roads and river crossings, so that road deliveries can replace the costly aircraft operations.
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