Cyclone Gafilo Further Damages Madagascar Communities

Catholic Relief Services
Tuesday, 16 March 2004

Nearly a week after Cyclone Gafilo tore through the southeast African island of Madagascar with 300 km/hour winds, communication, power supplies and access routes in many parts of the country remain inaccessible, according to field reports from Catholic Relief Services (CRS).

Initial assessments indicate that the heavy rains and winds have affected approximately 747,000 people, 40 percent (roughly 308,000) of whom are in need of immediate relief assistance. The devastated populations are primarily of subsistence farming communities in the northeastern and western provinces of Tamatave, Majunga, Tulear and Ansiranana. The overall economic impact is expected to exceed $250 million.

More than 250 people have been reported dead or missing since the cyclone first hit Madagascar on March 7, while flooding has destroyed rice, corn and vanilla crops in many low-lying areas. Cyclone Gafilo hit the island just a month after Cyclone Elita, following a similar path and resulting in further damage to areas that had yet to recover from Elita.

"The devastation of two cyclones a month apart is severe on the agricultural and farming communities, whose access to food source is limited at best, and whose needs are immediate," said CRS Madagascar Country Director Jennifer Overton. "Most agencies in the region are working closely together to cover the most affected areas and to get food, medicines and basic living items into the hands and households of thousands of families as quickly and efficiently as possible."

It is currently estimated that more than 300,000 hectares of agriculturally productive land, 200 schools and 100 health centers have been damaged or destroyed by the cyclone and subsequent flooding.

In response to Cyclone Gafilo, CRS is working closely with its local Caritas partners and other faith-based organizations to provide emergency food and non-food items to an additional 8,000 families up to 42,000 individuals in the most affected areas in the western provinces of Majunga and Tulear. Nearly 3,000 families up to 18,000 individuals will benefit from immediate agricultural recovery support, in which CRS will provide seed and cash for work activities to make necessary repairs to the agricultural infrastructure, such as irrigation systems and access routes to farmland.

CRS is also in preparations to rehabilitate school buildings damaged during the cyclone, and plans to identify health centers in need of essential medicines. In the interim, CRS will be targeting 13,500 families up to 67,000 persons to help restart livelihoods and repair urban and rural infrastructures through food and cash for work programs.

Working closely with government, UN and non-governmental organization (NGO) actors in its response, CRS has participated in government- and UN-led assessments to the affected areas. The UN, through its Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the local government, is exerting great effort to gather data in a difficult climate, and continues to contribute to the coordinated activities of local development and relief actors. A major UN implementing partner, CRS will take part in a UN worldwide appeal to be launched on the 19th of March.

CRS had completed emergency assistance for more than 3,300 families in Majunga, and was in the process of providing distributions of essential food, health items and medicines to 2,400 families in Morondava who had been affected by Elita, when Gafilo stormed into the region.

CRS has worked in Madagascar for more than 40 years and has staff available in the field to provide detailed analysis. Marking its 60th anniversary as the official international humanitarian agency of the U.S. Catholic community, CRS provides assistance to people in need in 94 countries and territories, regardless of race, creed or nationality.

For more information, or to contact Catholic Relief Services, see their website at: www.catholicrelief.org

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