ROME - The United Nations World
Food Programme is launching its first airlift operation Friday to
deliver urgently needed emergency food rations to tens of thousand of people
left destitute by floods in Madagascar.
The agency warned that more than half a million people in areas worst affected by cyclones Eline and Gloria will need emergency relief supplies, including food and medicines.
Some of the worst damaged areas on the Indian Ocean island are extremely remote. Officials in the country only completed their initial aerial assessment of the damage on Monday, flying over a band of northern territory from the eastern port of Toamasina, across the central highlands to the west coast.
The government issued an international appeal for relief assistance on Tuesday.
As an immediate response, WFP will dispatch, by helicopter, 25 metric tons of emergency rations consisting of rice, beans and sugar to some 30,000 people in the coastal town of Mahanoro, one of the areas worst affected by floods. WFP will deliver another 375 metric tons in the next few days to other areas damaged by the two cyclones, the northeast coastal town of Antalaha, Vatomandry and the west coastal town of Belo-Tsiribihina. If additional needs are identified WFP stands ready to respond.
Cyclone Eline swept through Madagascar two weeks ago before heading on to wreak havoc in Mozambique. Last week, Cyclone Gloria also stormed across the island following the same east-west route and leaving another trail of heavy downpours in its wake. It was later downgraded to a tropical storm as it reached the Mozambique Channel.
After sweeping across Madagascar, Cyclone Eline went on to devastate Mozambique where more than half a million people will need international assistance for at least another six months.
WFP is the United Nations' front-line agency in the fight against global hunger. In 1999 WFP fed more than 88 million people in 82 countries including most of the world's refugees and internally displaced people.