Fighting cyclones, floods and drought in Madagascar

A WFP vehicle drives through the flood waters of Cyclone Bingiza. WFP/Bruno Rakoson

Off the coast of Mozambique situated in the Indian Ocean lies an island full of natural beauty and diverse landscape: central highlands, desert-like plains, rainforests and white, sandy beaches. 

Yet under all of this beauty, the geographic location and variety of terrains of Madagascar often fall victim to a number of annual natural disasters – namely cyclones and tropical storms, flood, drought and locust infestations. 

Of these four environmental disasters, cyclones and floods have proven to be the most threatening. From November to May, the cyclone season lingers on the world’s fourth largest island, as widespread flooding damages infrastructure, destroys crops and threatens local food security. 

But how do WFP logisticians respond to emergencies like this when they occur?  Within 48 hours after a cyclone has hit Madagascar,  a rapid assessment is performed on the condition of local roads and bridges, noting where the population is located, and how they have been affected by possible damages to infrastructure and their access to food. Depending on current circumstances, WFP Logistics is able to put together a plan for emergency response and food assistance. In places where food is unable cannot be moved by land, logisticians turn to using boats, planes and helicopters.
 
In addition, the prepositioning of commodities through cooperating partners is a vital step in preventing and mitigating the impact of disasters.  Performed before the cyclone season begins, prepositioning allows immediate access to food if the roads have been rendered impassable due to flood.  
 
At the beginning of this year, the eastern coastal area was hit by Cyclone Bingiza which caused massive flooding, damaging infrastructure and temporarily displacing populations. At the same time, the south-western part of the country had been battling a different problem for the past two years. Little or no rain fall in the desert regions had brought drought to the area. Once a region that was receiving drought assistance through a WFP logistics operation, it was suddenly receiving torrential rain that left harvests destroyed and serious food security concerns.
 
To assist the affected population, WFP distributed 12,150 mt of food assistance.  In the true style of an island which hosts a variety of ecosystems and varying environments, 2,500 mt went to those affected by the cyclone, while 9,250 mt went to those affected by drought. 
 

All photos credited to WFP/Bruno Rakoson.