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Madagascar Suffering from Both Political and Weather-Related Problems

  • Joe DeCapua

U.N. envoys are expected in Madagascar to try to find a solution to the country’s political crisis.

A failure to implement power sharing agreements has led the European Union to continue its suspension of development aid to the country. Similar action has come from the AU and the Southern African Development Community or SADC. Humanitarian aid is generally not affected.

Politics and weather

John Uniack Davis, country director for CARE International, spoke from the capital Antananarivo about aid operations. “What makes this a difficult situation from CARE’s perspective is a number of events all coming together at the same time.”

The combination of factors includes “the economic effects of the political crisis, as well as record numbers of communes…in food insecurity,” he says. Communes are sub-sections of a district.

The western and southwestern parts of Madagascar are semi-arid to arid, due to a mountain range running through the middle of the island nation.

“This year in the south,” he says, “there are 65 communes classified…as being extremely food insecure. That compares with only 45 last year, which was considered to be a bad year, and 10 the previous year.”

He blames climate change for much of the problem. “This year, for example, rains came extremely erratically and were insufficient,” he says.

From too little to too much

On the eastern coast of Madagascar there’s been the problem of too much water. Madagascar is often in the path of cyclones and tropical storms.

While he says the past two cyclone seasons “have not been as bad as the two previous ones,” they were bad enough.

“Virtually every year, several cyclones or tropical storms hit Madagascar. And this year, was no exception. In early March, Tropical Storm Hubert hit the southeast coast. It was not a particularly strong storm, but it was essentially the straw that broke the camel’s back after weeks of deluges of rain,” he says.

The storm left about 100 dead. About 100,000 others were affected by the loss of farmland and homes.

Not forgotten

Uniack Davis says despite the suspension of development aid, donors have not forgotten the Malagasy people. “They’ve also tried hard to preserve important programs by classifying (them) as humanitarian. So we continue to be very involved in food security, health and nutrition, to a certain extent water and sanitation.” CARE and other aid agencies also cooperate in cyclone relief efforts.