Thursday, April 05, 2007

South Africa: Lives Threatened by Cyclone

"More Than a Million Lives Threatened as Cyclones, Heavy Rains Pummel Southern Africa"

Southern African communities, local authorities and humanitarian partners are finding their resources stretched to the limit with the early arrival of the rainy season and relentless precipitation as well as an unprecedented series of cyclones and tropical storms, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said today.

Despite recent improvements in the capacities for disaster and emergency preparedness and response, areas of Angola, Madagascar, Mozambique, Namibia and Zambia are working to rebuild their homes and recover their livelihoods after months of heavy rains, OCHA said in a press release.

“It seems either we have too much or too little rain,” said Kelly David, who heads OCHA’s Southern African regional office, underscoring the region’s vulnerabilities to natural disasters and food insecurity. “Building the capacity to respond quickly to rapid onset emergencies goes hand in hand with other sustained efforts by national governments and humanitarian partners to improve the lives of millions.”

Madagascar, an island nation off the African coast, has been battered by six cyclones and tropical storms since last December, affecting almost half a million people. The cyclones left widespread flooding, displacement and crop damage in their wake. Most recently, Cyclone Jaya this month pounded the northeastern portion of the country with high winds, heavy rains and flooding.

Meanwhile, southern Madagascar which is more arid saw its own share of the problems caused by drought, food insecurity and malnutrition.

The combined effects of the natural disasters have exhausted the country’s resources, and less than half of a $9.6 million appeal issued in last month has been funded so far. OCHA anticipates that humanitarian needs will increase after the most recent cyclone, but without additional assistance, “the Malagasy people will continue to struggle to obtain shelter, food, potable water, and health care.”...

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