Cyclone damage threatens food security in Madagascar


Torrential rains and winds reaching up to 200 km per hour have left over 10 000 people homeless in Madagascar and caused severe damage to infrastructure, threatening the food security of the island nation. Cyclones Eline on 17 February and Gloria on 2 March also killed an unknown number of people. Hardest hit are the north and central parts of the East Coast. Preliminary Government assessments indicate that 560 000 people have been affected to varying degrees by the cyclone damage. Access to these people is difficult due to damage to main roads and bridges.

It is reported that 114 villages and cities are isolated by the floods or destruction of the transport infrastructure. The Government has appealed for international assistance to cope with the emergency. The humanitarian situation in the affected areas is reported to be critical. There is an urgent need for international relief assistance to rescue the stranded people and to provide them with food, drinking water, medicines and other assistance. As several areas are inaccessible, airlift operations are needed. A UN appeal is expected to be launched soon.

Preliminary indications point to almost total crop losses in low-lying areas. Serious damage to coffee plantations by heavy winds in the major growing areas of the eastern coast are reported, and banana, orange, avocado and cocoa trees have also been seriously affected. These are cash crops that play an important role in the food economies of farm families. Thousands of hectares of rice are completely flooded. The prolonged submersion and the siltation of the paddy fields could result in total crop loss in these areas. Severe damage and losses of food stocks in households will further diminish food supplies.

14 March 2000

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