Struggling to reach cyclone-hit villages

Tropical storm Hubert battered Madagascar on 10 March, cutting off entire communities in the southeast from emergency aid. A limited amount of relief - mainly food items - has been flown in because of damage to infrastructure, and aid agencies are trying to reach people in need of assistance via the river systems.



Dia Styvanley Soa, spokeswoman for Madagascar's disaster management agency, BNGRC, told IRIN that according to the latest estimates, "36 people lost their lives and some 85,000 have been affected", and eight people lost their lives in mudslides on 15 March.



"We now have a problem with logistics - many roads have been cut off and many communities are now isolated," she said, particularly in the southeastern province of Fianarantsoa.



A statement by the BNGRC on 14 March said 20 tonnes of rice and other relief items, like medicines and tents, had been distributed, but more was needed.









''We now have a problem with logistics - many roads have been cut off and many communities are now isolated''

In previous years the BNGRC had managed to store relief items throughout the country in anticipation of the "cyclone season", but this year pre-positioning had not been possible, Soa said.



Madagascar lies in the main path of storms crossing the western Indian Ocean and is battered by cyclones every year; five have struck in the last two years, affecting over 463,000 people.



In November 2009, the UN Country Team raised concern over the approaching cyclone season and appealed for US$6 million in urgent funding to pre-position emergency supplies in the most vulnerable regions of the country. A drought in the south in early 2009 had depleted stocks, but political infighting caused Madagascar's major donors to disengage and funding ran dry.



The cyclone season typically runs from November to April, but this year it has been relatively mild and Hubert was the first storm to cause major destruction. However, the Malagasy Meteorological Service has warned that there might be more severe storms before the season ends.



tdm/he