U.N. struggles to aid Madagascar's Flood Victims

By Kieran Murray

ANTANANARIVO, March 15 (Reuters) - United Nations officials said on Wednesday they had enough relief supplies to help the victims of flooding in Madagascar but were having trouble getting them to villages most in need.

Although helicopters and small planes have been dropping supplies into towns around the country, moving them to scattered villages has been difficult because many roads are blocked by landslides or high water.

More than 20,000 people saw their homes destroyed and 150 people were killed when Cyclones Eline and Gloria ripped through the giant Indian Ocean island, leaving it in a crisis that has been somewhat overshadowed by severe flooding in nearby Mozambique.

"It is now a question of distribution rather than the amount of aid that is coming," said Edward Carwardine of the U.N. children's agency UNICEF.

"There is a bit of a logjam. The supplies are getting to the landing zones and are being offloaded. The problem is getting them to villages that are isolated," he told Reuters.

He said the village of Menagisa, which lies just 20 km (12 miles) from the coastal town of Mahanaro, had not yet received emergency food and medical supplies because one section of its road was waist-high in water. Its residents were reported to be surviving on berries.

French military officers in charge of helicopters deployed to help the relief effort said they thought the Madagascar flooding was not a real emergency.

But U.N. officials disagreed, saying that, in addition to the thousands left homeless, many small farmers lost their crops to the floods.

"There are people in some areas cut off by rains or because bridges have been destroyed and they have lost their crops," said Haladou Salha, the U.N. World Food Programme's country manager in Madagascar.

"This population is facing an emergency situation," he added.


Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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