Peter and Tantely are heading north.
The floods have displaced at least 116,000 people, with over 30 dead and others missing. HoverAid in Madagascar have started surveying some of the most affected areas around Maevetanana and Mangabe as our team head north. We are assessing and planning our response for those affected in areas where roads have been swept away. The floods have destroyed homes and entire villages, food supply is disrupted where malnutrition is already widespread. Rivers are at their highest ever recorded levels.
Mahasinda’s house was destroyed by floodwater
So to start with we want to supply building and fishing kits, tarpaulins for temporary shelter, and food. Later communities will need seeds and tools, and we will be cleaning wells.
We no longer suffer alone.
Arriving at the villages of Mangabe, barefoot and caked in mud, the HoverAid survey team prompt surprise, curiosity and relief in various measures. The residents have had no contact with the outside world since the day of the flood. Saturated roads and swollen rivers, deemed impassable, have locked these communities in. And so, after the initial shock, the significance of Peter and Tantely’s appearance sinks in. The message spreads, “we no longer suffer alone”.
Serving Madagascar’s isolated communities requires a particular set of skills. Skills that are tested to the limit in times of flooding. A simple drive can become a fiendish logistical exercise. Hovercraft, must negotiate perilous landing spots and rivers choked with debris. And with phone masts down, accurate information is almost non-existent. In these moments, the best solutions are the simplest. Such as taking off your shoes and trudging through the mud.
Reaching the stranded communities at Mangabe has demonstrated the severity of need in these riverside settlements. With residents struggling to feed themselves and their families, repair work is slow and the opportunity to replant is quickly passing.
With the river now navigable from the town of Maevatanana we are loading canoes with rice – bought from local vendors – to supply the affected villages and so releasing the community’s precious time and energy to be spent on the task of rebuilding. A survey will also be conducted on the so-far inaccessible far river bank. The next day we will return with seed to plant a future and household essentials that will offer a dignity with which to approach it.
But the falling water levels which allow access to the brave canoe captains also hail a new phase in our response to these devastating floods. Having catered for emergency relief and rebuilding we can hand over our reports to the authorities for continued support of the residents of Mangabe. Meanwhile, our attention must turn to those who remain unreachable.
Further north, in the mountainous Sofia region, continued rainfall has halted all relief efforts and roads are officially closed under the national state of emergency issued by the government. Now, the pause in the rain has prompted the military to open road access to the region where the absence of reports from communities in high risk landslide and flooding locations is an ominous sign.
With your open-hearted support, we have been able to organize a second wave of emergency food distribution in Mangabe – the isolated community whose future stands on a knife edge following five days of apocalyptic flooding.
To survive, the villagers have turned from farmers to fishers, valiantly scouring their flooded fields for something to put on their family’s plates. Spending all day, waist deep in mud and stagnant water carries many risks. Bilharzia is prevalent. There is no longer the time to search for clean drinking water, increasing the chance of various outbreaks. And the livestock – which represent a family’s savings are missing herdsmen to protect them from bandits – who are taking advantage of the strained community.
The best thing we can offer these people at such a moment is a full belly.
And so; hoisted into trucks, carried into boats, pushed over sandbanks, lifted into ox-carts and dragged through the mud; today four tonnes of rice arrived where it is so desperately needed.
The gruelling logistics of transportation in a flood-devastated area are worth every drop of sweat to see that this truly mattered
The sight of canoes brought the entire village to the riverbank.
Not only were these craft a spectacle – the first to have braved the still treacherous river since last week’s deadly flooding – they also carried a cargo so precious that even the elderly residents of Mangabe had come down to welcome the return of HoverAid.
For the last seven days, Mangabe’s residents have survived on whatever could be carried as they fled their homes before the fast-rising river, when they returned, they ate what they could forage from the rotting fields or catch in the river.
Now, with shrieks of elation,
the children jump from the bank into the eddy at the edge of the river where the canoes are landing, the anticipation of a good meal combined with the joy Madagascar’s kids manage to find in every situation.
The canoes bring two tons of rice, four hundred kilos of planting seed, two hundred litres of oil, one hundred kilos of sugar, as well as soap, salt, matches and candles.
These life-giving gifts from HoverAid’s supporters are enabling a community in
desolation to get back on their feet in the knowledge that they are loved and cared for from all across the world.
From Mangabe, thank you!