Relief officials in Madagascar have begun airlifting emergency food supplies to northern Madagascar, which has been devastated by a series of deadly storms. Correspondent Scott Bobb reports from our Southern Africa Bureau in Johannesburg.
The U.N. World Food Program says the first shipment of a planned 100 tons of food has been flown to several towns in northwestern Madagascar.
WFP Spokesman Michael Huggins says people there desperately need food and other supplies.
"The situation for many thousands of people in northern Madagascar is quite grave at the moment," said Huggins. "They have exhausted a lot of their food supplies during the past couple of weeks."
Northern Madagascar in the past two months was hit by two major cyclones that killed 150 people and left nearly 200,000 in need of help. During the same period, three other cyclones and several severe storms also hit the island.
The storms caused extensive damage to roads and bridges and cut off communities in the region from the rest of the country.
Huggins says the WFP plans to deliver enough food by helicopter to last these people several months.
"In that time we hope that the government and local communities are going to be able to rebuild the bridges and the roads that were destroyed during the cyclone season so that road convoys can get through again," added Huggins.
The region is an important producer of rice and vanilla, and these crops have also been hard hit by the storms. The humanitarian supplies will allow victims to work in their fields until the next harvest later this year.
Meanwhile, relief agencies in Madagascar are struggling to provide humanitarian assistance to an estimated 500,000 people in the southern part of the island. They lost much of their crops this year due to drought and officials are concerned over declining nutrition levels among the most vulnerable members of this group.