WFP air operation brings much needed aid to cyclone-hit Madagascar

ANTANANARIVO - The United Nations World Food Programme said today it had started flying desperately needed food and other humanitarian supplies by helicopter to 20,000 people in northwestern Madagascar isolated after one of the worst cyclone seasons in years.

WFP plans to provide 100 metric tons of food and other essential relief items by helicopter over a four-week period from a base in the northwestern town of Antsohihy. The helicopter will ferry supplies to villages cut off because of damage to roads and bridges caused by several cyclones.

"For weeks people in these remote areas have survived on stocks of food but these have now been consumed and new supplies of food are urgently needed," said Krystyna Bednarska, WFP Representative in Madagascar. "The cyclones that hit this part of the country caused extensive damage to roads and bridges and have made an air operation our only option to save lives."

The first phase of the air operation, which has already delivered 25 tons of food and supplies since it began last Friday, targets 8,200 people in towns around Antsohihy. The second phase will focus on villages several hundred kilometres to the north around Ambanja, where 12,000 people need supplies.

Cyclones Indlala and Jaya, which caused the most destruction when they hit the North East and the North West of the country in March and April, killed 151 people and left more than 190,000 people in need of humanitarian aid. WFP's operation will target only those acutely affected by food shortages. In addition to Indlala and Jaya, Madagascar was hit by cyclones Gamede, Favio and Enok this year, as well as several severe tropical storm systems.

For more information please contact (email address:

Volana Rarivoson, WFP/Madagascar, Tel. +261-20-22-31572, Cell +261-3207-132-693

Michael Huggins, WFP/Johannesburg, Tel. +27-11-517-1662, Cell. +27-82-908-1448

Christiane Berthiaume, WFP/Geneva, Tel. +41-22-9178564, Cell. +41-792857304

Cécile Sportis, WFP/Paris, Tel. +33-1-70385330, Cell. +33-6161-68266