'Worst flood since 1978' in Madagascar
'This is the worst flood since 1978, although the population was not so dense then and the loss not so great,' said Colonal Miha from Madagascar's National Bureau for Risk and Disaster Management agency (BNGRC). 'It's hard to imagine the hardship here unless you witness it with your own eyes; we have been barely surviving.'
Miha is talking to a ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) about Cyclone Haruna, a devastating storm that hit isolated parts of southwestern Madagascar in February that caused lives to be lost and has affected almost 18,500 people.
When the floodwaters came, many people sought safety in trees and on rooftops as they watched their belongings wash away. Small boats were mobilised to rescue stranded people as part of BNGRC's search and rescue efforts.
'Some people had no time to save any of their worldly possessions; instead they were gone in a matter of minutes,' continued Miha. 'This was the case for families living in the village of Antaravay Salimo. The flood started at 6am and within two hours the entire area was covered in almost two metres of water.'
Twelve-year-old Barthelemy Nasolosoa and his grandmother Mahorosy Limbiko are one family out of thousands who lost everything they owned in the flooding.
Barthelemy is a disabled person who uses a wheelchair. His mother died giving birth to him and the whereabouts of his father is unknown. His grandmother Mahorosy has raised him and continues to care for him. Her livelihood is sewing.
'When the floodwaters hit Barthelemy's house he was unable to move or swim,' said SRT member Peter Pearce (AU). 'He ended up in the water at the mercy of the tsunami-like waves. He would have drowned if his neighbour hadn't rescued him. Everything he and Mahorosy owned was destroyed, including her sewing machine. It's sad to see so much loss and devastation here but Barthelemy is still brilliantly smiling. They can both begin to rebuild their lives now they are safe and warm in a ShelterBox tent.'
Madagascar's desolate landscape and limited road access make it a challenging environment for humanitarian organisations to operate in, as it can be restrictive in transporting aid to those in need in the most hard-to-reach areas.
ShelterBox has previous experience in working in the country having responded to multiple cyclones, which has led to a strong partnership between the charity and BNGRC, who contacted ShelterBox for assistance following Haruna.
'Thanks to our partnership with BNGRC, we have been able to bring shelter and safety to isolated families who had been living under the stars following the disaster,' said Peter. 'BNGRC has helped us with transport in the past to reach the most isolated people and they have helped us this time round to help vulnerable families in need.'
BNGRC continue distributing shelter and other vital aid on behalf of ShelterBox to families who have lost everything in remote areas.