Madagascar gets European aid and flood contingency

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IRIN - Madagascar / IRIN, 8 March - The European Commission is to spend about US$ 841,000 in Madagascar to provide humanitarian aid to vulnerable communities, most of which were affected during the floods which hit the country about one year ago. 

The commission said in a statement on Tuesday that recent surveys of children, centred on the districts of Mahonoro and Nosy-Varika, had revealed serious nutritional deficiencies. "The humanitarian aid provided by the European Commission targets almost 8,000 vulnerable families with a particular emphasis on severely malnourished children. It includes the provision of basic food rations, and some food for work activities," the statement said. The money is to be channelled to the communities through the commission's Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO).

UNDP resident representative in Madagascar, Adama Guindo, told IRIN on Wednesday that UN agencies and the governments of France and Madagascar had implemented contingency measures to ensure that a minimal number of people would be affected in any new emergency during the current cyclone season

- After a joint workshop last year we have opened seven operation centres, mainly along the east coast, where most of the cyclones come through, he said. "We have UN national volunteers in each centre, which is equipped with a base radio that is linked to a computer system. All volunteers are linked to local administration offices and local communities. They have basically two main functions - to liaise with local administrative officers and to provide training on emergency situations and reaction; for example they educate people on what to do before, during and after a cyclone," he said.

Guindo added that the communications system was solar powered and would work even if there was a power failure. The UNDP provided US$ 200,000 for the programme and USAID had pledged another US$ 1 million to strengthen the overall natural disaster management system, Guindo said. "This means that for two years we are funded," Guindo added. 

He also said that Madagascar had made much progress with its reconstruction efforts after last year's disaster. About 60 percent of the northeast town of Antala, which has about 1.4 million people (about 10 percent of the population), was damaged during cyclone Huddah last year. Guindo told IRIN that life in the vanilla-growing town was now "almost normal".

- Things have moved very quickly, he said. "This is the main vanilla growth area. Last year production was exceptional. The cyclone itself lasted a few hours and the crops were not damaged. Prices were high, people were harvesting and this helped to rebuild the town," Guindo said. He said that according to latest weather reports, the tropical depression which was developing off the coast of Madagascar on Tuesday was headed towards the Mozambique channel and would not strike Madagascar.

He said that 10 days of rain in January had caused some concern, but swift action had averted any danger. There had also been three cyclone alerts, he said, but none of them had struck land. "So far," he told IRIN, "the situation is all right".


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