Madagascar Storm: “Springing Back to Rebuild Their Lives’
By John Uniack Davis, Country Director CARE Madagascar
February 22, 2012
"I am in the field with communications officer Katia Rakotobe visiting CARE's activities to bring relief to those most affected by Cyclone Giovanna. Today, we left Antananarivo ("Tana"), the capital of Madagascar, at 7 a.m. and headed east toward the coast to the two districts most hard hit by Giovanna, Brickaville and Vatomandry. About two and one-half hours' drive east of Tana, over halfway to the coast, we started seeing fairly significant storm damage -- roofs off houses, trees down, and mudslides partially blocking the road, eight days after the cyclone hit. East of Andasibe National Park, we saw whole stands of young trees bent in half or blown down, a vivid testimonial to the power of nature, the raw force of the cyclone.
We ate lunch at a roadside stand at Antsampanana, the crossroads between Brickaville to the east and Vatomandry to the south. As we ate, we saw nimble young men on nearby roofs repairing the cyclone damage. Farther south, we saw numerous houses completely leveled by the cyclone, and yet the simple rough-hewn frames of new houses are already in evidence. We were struck by the resilience of the people, knocked down by the storm but springing back up to rebuild their lives.
CARE's post-cyclone relief activities are aimed at those who are more vulnerable and less resilient. These are often, for example, women heads of households with young children or elderly people with no means of support.
We are in the process of distributing plastic sheeting to those exposed to the elements. With plastic sheeting supplied by USAID and the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the help of partners like Catholic Relief Services (CRS), we will keep 20,000 to 30,000 people safe and dry. In the medium term, we expect to help those most in need to rebuild their homes in a sturdy fashion. While many families have their own resources or a social safety net that will permit them to rebuild without outside help, we want to assist those who don't quite have the means to help themselves quickly enough.
CARE will also be providing food aid to destitute households in the short term and start food-for-work programs in the short and medium term. Food-for-work means that people will help removing rubble and reopening blocked roads and will receive sufficient food for themselves and their families in return.
As I write these lines on my Blackberry while bouncing along on a remote sand track near the Indian Ocean, it is clear that a lot of work lies ahead of us in order to provide relief and help those in need rebuild their lives and regain their self-sufficiency. My colleagues at CARE Madagascar and I welcome the challenge inherent in this important work.