Enhancing Disaster Preparedness, Resilience in Madagascar

Cheneso marked the onset of the seasonal tropical cyclones disaster in Madagascar in January 2023, being the first to make landfall on the east coast of the Indian Ocean island. Its trajectory traversed the nation, reaching the northwestern Boeny Region, including its capital, Mahajanga. Mahajanga typically embodies a serene fishing and trading port, attracting both local Malagasy and international tourists.

Nestled along the scenic Betsiboka estuary amidst rolling savannah plains and hills, its idyllic beaches border the Mozambique Channel. However, the tranquility was disrupted by Cheneso and subsequently by the more forceful Cyclone Freddy, unleashing torrential rains and fierce winds, causing widespread devastation.

Rivers breached their banks, inundating coastal areas and the city, affecting numerous residences across six districts in the region. Despite the calamity, local authorities expressed enhanced readiness compared to preceding years.

Lahanaina Ravelomahay, Prefect of Mahajanga and Co-Chair of the Regional Disaster Risk and Management Committee (CR-GRC), highlighted the bolstered provisions and preparedness measures. These included stocked provisions for distribution from the regional outpost of the National Office for Risk and Disaster Management (BNGRC), provision of tents for shelter, and the deployment of motorized rescue dinghies for flood response and evacuation operations. Additionally, advanced notice protocols were implemented, issuing alerts at least two days before impending cyclones.

An appreciable stride in disaster risk reduction (DRR) pertains to the integration of at-risk populations, particularly persons with disabilities (PWD). Ianjasoa Razafindratsita, representing Humanity and Inclusion (HI) in the Boeny Region, noted the newfound inclusivity in DRR management plans, ensuring active participation of PWDs and their integration into the DRR process for mutual benefit.

Collaboration between local PWD associations and the Malagasy Red Cross yielded significant advancements, with priority evacuation plans formulated for the most vulnerable individuals during hazardous events such as cyclones.

CARE International’s DRR initiatives have evolved to emphasize improved governance and capacity building, including simulation training for community-level risk and disaster management. Enhanced local awareness and community mobilization, facilitated by the strengthening of local rescue teams, have notably improved DRR outcomes.

These projects have received support from the European Union Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid, which has provided communities with essential equipment, including locally crafted canoes, to facilitate emergency evacuations, particularly for vulnerable community members.

Ambalavola, a settlement adjacent to the Caimains River on the outskirts of Mahajanga, emerges as a particularly vulnerable locale prone to natural hazards due to inadequate infrastructure, such as drainage systems. Despite these challenges, DRR initiatives are underway.

Adriano Rakotovao, Head of the municipality, emphasized the pivotal role of communication, highlighting the effective dissemination of early warnings and collaborative preventive actions among local authorities, law enforcement agencies, and emergency responders.

Communication avenues, including local radio networks like JRDB, play a crucial role in disseminating alerts and vital information, extending their reach to isolated villages within the Boeny Region. Notably, partnerships facilitated by Boeny’s Regional Directorate for Population, Social Protection, and Women’s Promotion (DRPPSF) have catalyzed the expansion of social activities towards DRR.

These efforts encompass community engagement initiatives advocating precautionary measures, such as heeding alerts via local media, ensuring emergency provisions, and safeguarding valuables and documents in flood-prone areas.

The proactive involvement of community associations, such as the KB8M women’s association and the Youth Association in Mahajanga, underscores the grassroots commitment to DRR. Collaborative endeavors with DRPPSF have amplified the dissemination of critical information from authorities to vulnerable communities, fostering resilience at minimal cost.

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