The giant Indian Ocean island of Madagascar, having suffered tropical storms Eline and Gloria over the last two months, faces a cholera epidemic as water supplies in several towns on the east coast and in south central parts of the country were either damaged or contaminated.
More transport needed
The UNICEF Representative, in Madagascar, Dr Sergio Soro told IRIN on Friday that the humanitarian community needs more aircraft and helicopters to get relief to tens of thousands of flood victims in the giant Indian Ocean island 400 km off the coast of Mozambique.
WFP also reiterated on Friday an "urgent need for helicopters and small planes" to deliver food to inaccessible towns.
"In the wake of cyclones Eline and Gloria we are facing big problems of logistics and transportation," Soro said. "At this point, transportation is simply not sufficient. There are still areas of Madagascar which remain inaccessible. We have not been able to assess the situation in some villages and some districts, and the crisis here remains dramatic."
WFP said it currently estimated the total number of people affected by floods in Madagascar to be 469,370, in the east, north-east and highlands regions which were swept by the cyclones.
Health and nutrition, the main problems
Soro also said he was concerned that a cholera epidemic which has claimed 1,300 lives over the past year would get worse because it had been raining all week in the northeast flood zone.
"We have decided to strengthen our capacity to tackle the cholera problem and other water-borne diseases now on the increase," he said. Soro said UN agencies and health NGOs had decided to strengthen the capacity of the government relief agency, the Centre national de secours (CNS) to keep the situation tightly monitored.
USAID said it was continuing to use resources from existing funds to contribute to the preventive side of the government's anti-cholrea drive. It said it had provided US $800,000 for the programme so far, "and has leveraged up to a further US $400,000 more from other organisations".
Soro said that since March last year, 22,000 people had contracted cholera in Madagascar where the fatality rate among them was 5.7 percent. He said the cholera mortality rate in hospitals was "alarmingly high" at four percent. "This rate of deaths in hospitals should be below one percent," he said.
He said the CNS health group had sent teams to the areas worst affected and that emergency medical kits were being prepositioned in the country's disaster zones.
As the humanitarian community in Madagascar faces the post-acute phase of the floods emergency, he said the other major concern, besides health, was nutrition.
The extent of the damage
In a statement bearing out Soro's concerns, the USAID office in Antananarivo said on Friday that official estimates on the extent of the damage from cyclone Gloria, which swept through the island early this month in the wake of the more severe cyclone Eline last month, were not yet available.
So far, two overflights have been launched with field staff on the ground to sites affected by cyclone Gloria and not covered during the overlights following cyclone Eline, it said.
According to preliminary CNS findings, an estimated 100 km of 11 primary highways and roads are damaged as a result of flood waters and mud slides. It also reported that seven major bridges in the country have been destroyed.
Preliminary CNS surveys also indicate that 71 percent of water supplies in several towns on the east and in south central Madagascar were damaged or contaminated.
"To date USAID has provided US $25,000 to Catholic Relief Services (CRS) for the provision of safe drinking water to affected areas to clear and rehabilitate important roads," it said in a statement.
WFP said a Buffalo cargo plane it had diverted from Mozambique had carried 7 mt of food to Sambava, a badly affected coastal town in north-east Madagascar. In total, WFP has delivered 43 mt to Sambava. It had also started food distribution in the devastated east coast resort town of Vatomandry.
The country's foreign minister, Leonardo Simao warned that there is a possibility of flooding on the Zambezi river as the Cahora Bassa dam is unable to hold the waters any further. He said districts in the provinces of Tete, Manica, Sofala and Zambezia, which are on the banks of the Zambezi, face further flooding and advised the populations there to take precautions.
The water levels on the Save, Buzi, Limpopo and Zambezi rivers continue to decrease slightly, according to the US Agency for International Development (USAID). However, the water levels in the Zambezi river have been rising owing to heavy rains in the Tete province on the border with Malawi this week.
The USAID report said, however, that the Pungue river remains at a maximum alert level and that one of the main roads near the Pungue will be at risk if the river floods. It added that the Kariba dam continues to discharge water at the rate of 5,500 cubic metres per second, but that this level may decrease to 3,300 cubic metres per second.
The government's National Water Authority is continuing the restoration of water services in the Chokwe districts, and assessments in other affected towns, especially Save and Chibuto are being undertaken. The US Coast Guard team has facilitated the transfer of over 270 mt of relief supplies and transported approximately 100 high priority passengers, USAID said.
The government's disaster management team, Instituto Gestao de Calamidades (INGC) said in its latest report that there is a total of 53 aircraft are available in the capital, Maputo and Beira to assist in relief operations.
WFP has provided 7,600 mt of food to 365,000 displaced persons in about 100 accommodation centres. INGC said on Thursday WFP delivered 221 mt of food to locations in Gaza, Maputo and Sofala. "Included in this consignment is 163 mt which was shipped from Beira for distribution in Machanga and Buzi," added INGC.
The US Department of Defence's chartered flights this week delivered an estimated 40 mt of WFP's high energy biscuits from Italy, which have been transported at a cost of US $250,000, added the USAID report.
The INGC said 4,360 kg of food was distributed by boat in Nova Mambone.
USAID said the runway at the airport in Chibuto has suffered extensive damage due to flooding and increased traffic from humanitarian operations. It added that the Mozambican aviation authorities have declared an estimated 300 metres of the runway unsafe. The airport will, therefore, no longer allow landing permission for C-130 and C-160 planes.
The UNDP is coordinating with the government, local officials and NGOs to develop a standard resettlement package for the future return of flood victims to their homes. Options under consideration, said the report, include cash grants, distributions in kind, a voucher system or a combination of all the three options. A draft proposal is expected to be completed this week.
The INGC said blankets, tents, cooking kits and clothes were distributed to displaced people in camps in Save, Chokwe, Massingir and Magude on Thursday.
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