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Madagascar: Responding to the Devastation of Cyclone Giovanna

Medair’s rapid emergency assessment and intervention has improved access to safe drinking water for 5,000 families in the most affected areas on the east coast.

On 14 February 2012, Cyclone Giovanna slammed into the east coast of Madagascar, exactly one year after Cyclone Bingiza struck the vulnerable island nation in 2011. Packing winds of up to 194 kilometres per hour, the cyclone tore off roofs and demolished houses, making landfall near the coastal town of Vatomandry.

“We had just enough time to take a few belongings and seek refuge,” said 28-year-old Irene. “When the cyclone had passed all our homes were destroyed.”

“The situation is catastrophic,” said Medair’s Claudel Mbotivelo. “When we arrived two days after the cyclone, many houses had collapsed and telephone lines and electrical power had been cut off by trees that had fallen.”

Water Woes

A child stands in front of the ruins of her house in Ambodivoananto village.

A child stands in front of the ruins of her house in Ambodivoananto village.

On the east coast, many people already lived a simple life and were vulnerable before the disaster. Before Giovanna, people in the Brickaville district south of Toamasina were suffering the effects of drought. Some wells and rivers had run dry. Residents of Ambohimiarina, for example, walked more than an hour round-trip to collect water for drinking, cooking, and cleaning.

Now, with fallen trees in the road, holes to avoid, and new detours needed since the cyclone, it’s even more difficult for people to meet their basic needs. “These conditions weaken the local population and make them even more vulnerable to disease,” said Aurélie Grisel, Medair Field Communications Officer. “The rivers are infected with Schistosomiasis and cause serious diseases that sometimes cause death, in particular among children.”

Although most residents had received forewarning of the impending natural disaster thanks to good regional communications, the cyclone left many villages in a state of devastation with water points contaminated and water unsafe to drink.

Village residents happily receive the Medair WASH kits in the wake of the cyclone.

Village residents happily receive the Medair WASH kits in the wake of the cyclone.

“Before the cyclone, we suffered from the drought already, but with the hurricane, it's even worse. We no longer have enough drinking water,” said Maka Valérien, leader of Ambodivoananto village. “We need help with this emergency, but we also need it done in a sustainable way, because life here is hard.”

Meeting the Needs of the Most Vulnerable
After a rapid assessment of the region—working in close association with local authorities and other NGOs—Medair sent a response team to the Vatomandry region.

Our team is now working to improve access to safe drinking water for people in the Vatomandry area. Our work includes:

  • Distributing 5,000 WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene) kits to affected families. WASH kits contain buckets, a chlorine solution to treat the water, cups, and soap.
  • Disinfecting wells
  • Providing group education on hygiene
  • Repairing a gravitational water system, including raised water points
  • Repairing rainwater harvesting and water distribution systems in three schools
  • Continuing to assess villages and hamlets farther inland to organise emergency response if necessary.

In addition, we are currently looking into running a project that will provide a cash distribution to local residents to enable them to provide for their most urgent needs, including rebuilding their homes.

“The challenge with this emergency is that access to clean water and sanitation was extremely low before the cyclone,” said Yves-Pascal Suter, Medair Country Director. “We are now investing a lot of energy into restoring what has been broken and also in bringing immediate help that will have a lasting impact in the region, reducing the vulnerability of these communities to future cyclones and floods.”

Medair is now seeking funding for a full supply of WASH kits so that they will be on hand and ready for distribution when the next cyclone strikes the island. Please give a small gift to Medair today.

While Medair maintains a readiness to respond to cyclones like Giovanna, emergency responses are only part of our work in Madagascar. For most of the year, Medair’s efforts are focused on partnering with communities and helping them become better prepared to face future cyclones.

Medair’s work in Madagascar is supported by the E.C. Directorate-General for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection and private donations.

Read more about Medair’s work in Madagascar.

This web update was produced with resources gathered by Medair field and headquarters staff. The views expressed herein are those solely of Medair and should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of any other organisation.   



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