It has been a week since heavy rains swept away parts of Madagascar, but the storm's overall impact on this Indian Ocean island is likely to be felt for a long time to come for many people.
The torrential rains hit the island on Jan. 22 and lasted for a week. The resultant floods have displaced almost 107,000 people, and have killed 31 people to date.
The floods have also destroyed roads, houses, schools, crops, and livestock. ReliefWeb, a humanitarian information portal, reported that more than 10,600 houses are still flooded, while 6,600 students in the seven regions hit hardest by the floods have stopped going to school as a result of the damage.
National roads that connect north-western Madagascar to the rest of the country have also been destroyed. Madagascar’s Prime Minister Christian Ntsay declared a “natural disaster” on Jan. 24 and declared a state of emergency.
Now, the National Bureau of Disaster Risk Management has warned of looming hunger and malnutrition, and asked for aid from the global community.
“The government is calling on national figures and international partners to help the Malagasy people with emergency aid, early recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction," government spokesperson Lalatiana Andriatongarivo said in a statement.
Madagascar is currently in the middle of its rainy season, which spans from October to April. But on top of heavy rains, this period also sees an increased risk of cyclones. The cyclone season peaks in February and March.
The country has the highest risk of being hit by cyclones in Africa, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The country can get between three and four cyclones each year.
It’s also ranked among the top 10 countries that are most vulnerable to climate change. The impact is felt hardest by the country’s rural poor, with more than 80% of Madagascar’s rural poor population being reliant on small-scale farming or fishing for their livelihood — those areas that are most vulnerable to climate change impact.
This sector, which makes up more than 80% of the labour market, also loses up to 40% of jobs due to cyclones.
“Extreme weather events in Madagascar are becoming more frequent and intense. And the devastating impact of these disasters [have] aggravated the already extremely high levels of vulnerability and poverty in the country,” United Nations Deputy Humanitarian Chief Ursula Mueller said in June 2019.
Mueller was visiting the country as part of a humanitarian mission to assess the impact of climate change on communities.
“I have seen the reality of climate change, with the poorest and most vulnerable people bearing the brunt of a phenomenon that they had no hand in creating,” she said. “With every new shock, people’s resilience is eroded, and needs escalate.”