UN country team calls for urgent action to save lives in Madagascar

Emergency supplies needed to prepare for upcoming cyclone season

Antananarivo, 25 November, 2009 - Concerns are raised over the approaching cyclone season that could seriously affect the lives of up to 600,000 people warned United Nations agencies working in the island nation. This year, meteorologists forecast that four to five intense cyclones will strike during the 2009/2010 season, putting at risk the lives and livelihoods of many people and causing large scale damage to infrastructure.

The humanitarian community is urgently appealing for $6 million dollars to be used for pre-positioning stocks in the most vulnerable regions of the country. This is the requirement from several agencies to be able to ensure an initial response. Urgent supplies required include: tarpaulins, medicines, water purification tablets and health, school and recreational kits.

"We are in a very grave situation and need to pre-position supplies in the areas most at risk to be able to effectively save lives and mitigate the impact on these communities," said Mr. Christopher Peter Metcalf, United Nations Resident Coordinator a.i. "It is urgent that resources be mobilized now. We urge the international community not to ignore the plight of the Malagasy people."

Many humanitarian agencies have already exhausted the usual supplies to respond to drought in the south, cyclones in early 2009 and losses of supplies related to the political crisis.

Due to its geographic location, Madagascar is affected every year by three to four cyclones that cause additional hardship for an already vulnerable population. Over the last two years, the country was hit by five cyclones affecting over 463,000 people. The cyclones damaged 2,276 classrooms, 180,000 hectares of agricultural land and left 190,000 people without shelter.

With a total of 69 percent of the population or nearly 13 million people considered poor, coping mechanisms for emergencies are limited. In addition, poor infrastructure means that once a cyclone has hit it can take weeks to reach some of the affected communities which are left isolated and at great risk of hunger and disease.

"The tragedy is that this is an annual event and it appears that each year the severity and impact is potentially greater. Investments in disaster risk reduction programmes can save lives and help communities recover more quickly" urged Metcalf. "Flexible and predictable funding mechanisms are critical for addressing recurrent emergencies, such as cyclones and drought in Madagascar.

For more information, please contact:

Pierre Bry
Senior Humanitarian Affairs Officer, UNOCHA/UNRC Office Madagascar
Mob: + 261 032 05 07 695 e-mail:

Sara Johansson,
Communication Specialist, UNICEF Madagascar
Mob: +261 33 15 411 31 e-mail: