Office of the Resident Coordinator
Situation Report 1 – Political Crisis and Humanitarian Situation in Madagascar
29 January 2009
The following report has been prepared by the OCHA support mission to the Office of the Resident Coordinator in Madagascar in collaboration with the UN Country Team.
The current political volatility in Madagascar has resulted in massive street protests, violence and looting.
In Antananarivo significant material damage has been done to shops, markets and other businesses. Deaths (82) and a high number of injured people (321 injured of whom 108 hospitalised)1 were registered in hospitals and other health centres across Antananarivo and other cities and regions (Toliary, Antsirabe, region Diana, region Sava, Fianarantsoa)2 . As of today, only three local radio stations are reported functioning in the capital and there is still no nation-wide TV coverage. All international and domestic airports, as well as ports, are operational.
The UN Country Team, under the leadership of the Resident Coordinator, is closely monitoring the humanitarian situation in the country. The UN House, where the majority of UN agencies are based, is open and functioning. However, on 26 January, the Resident Coordinator/Designated Official declared Security Phase 1 for Madagascar.
In view of the operational and logistical challenges, UN agencies are reviewing their operational capacity and are ready to take appropriate measures when necessary; this includes strengthening security at WFP’s port warehouses in Toamasina and Toliary where for security reasons dispatches from these warehouses have been suspended until further notice. The UNICEF warehouse in Antananarivo is under no threat, having been reinforced with additional security personnel.
The continuing political crisis is likely to compound the fight for daily survival of two thirds of the Malagasy population living in poverty, risking pushing many even further over the edge. As the crisis spreads into other major cities and towns of the country, it is expected to generate equal humanitarian challenges.
The UN Country Team is not only concerned about the immediate humanitarian impact, but also that Madagascar is likely to find itself with weakened capacity to respond to a number of humanitarian challenges, either current or lying ahead, including the cyclones, floods and drought, to which the country is excessively prone.
HEALTH (Cluster Lead: WHO)
There is a serious concern about public health including the access to basic health services. Besides transport difficulties, the population is likely to have fewer financial resources to pay for transport to and from medical facilities. Approximately 165 women give birth every day in Antananarivo. Women giving birth during curfew hours at night have no access to trained birth attendants, and even less to emergency obstetric care if needed. Deteriorating environmental conditions and limited surveillance create an epidemic risk. The factors to take into account are the existence of a high rate of children under 5 vulnerable to vaccine-preventable diseases (at least 20%), the low rate of health facilities utilization, estimated at 30%, and the reduced access to iron supplements for pregnant women and Vitamin A for breastfeeding women.
PROTECTION (Cluster Lead: UNICEF)
A serious concern exists with regards to the access of the most vulnerable groups, in particular women and children, to limited public and social support services under the political crisis. Technical clusters are well aware of the protection challenges and are closely monitoring the situation in Antananarivo and in the field.
The unusual rates of violence recorded this week have generated high levels of stress and anxiety among the population, including children and youth who witnessed or were directly exposed to it. This is likely to require in some cases psychological support which, unfortunately, is at a nascent stage in Madagascar. The destruction and potential negative economic impact are likely to result in job losses, thereby directly decreasing overall family cash income and risking generating harmful behaviour. Linked to food insecurity and school drop-out rates, the protective environment of children in poor areas are all expected to be adversely impacted.
NUTRITION AND FOOD SECURITY (Cluster Lead: UNICEF):
There is a serious concern about food security. A chain of stores, MAGROS, has been pillaged with large quantities of rice disappearing overnight. MAGROS is known to stock rice, which has a stabilizing effect on the overall rice price index in the country. Some shortages of rice and cooking oil have been reported as citizens continue to stock up on basic commodities, leading to price increases on the market for basic necessities. While currently some looted stocks are reportedly being sold at reduced prices in peripheral markets, lack of cash in hand as well as potential shortages may seriously impact on the food basket of the most vulnerable families, affecting the children under 5 and pregnant and breastfeeding women diet and nutritional status.
It should be noted that nutritional and food security surveys carried out late 2008 by UNICEF and WFP respectively confirm the already precarious situation of the urban population in these areas. UNICEF’s survey shows that malnutrition for children under 5 years of age (as shown by chronic malnutrition rate > 50%) in some parts of Antananarivo is above the country’s average. WFP’s food security assessment for Antananarivo shows that 20% of the population is under severe food insecurity; 42% under moderate food insecurity; while only 29% are relatively safe in terms of food security3. A high proportion of women (19%) have a Body Mass Index lower than 18.5, representing chronic energy deficiency. In addition one pregnant woman in two (50%) suffers from anaemia4. Therefore, lack of availability of food could exacerbate these vulnerabilities.
EDUCATION (Cluster Lead: UNICEF)
Depending on their locations in the capital and potential exposure to violence, many schools remain closed to date. The need for catch-up classes, specific support to re-establish the sense of normalcy, and activities to reassure children will need to be urgently addressed in Antananarivo.
HABITAT (Cluster Lead: IFRC/Malagasy Red Cross):
Currently no impact
WATER AND SANITATION (Cluster Lead: UNICEF):
The political crisis is putting on hold the municipal garbage collection services, causing the accumulation of garbage. An imminent return of rains would likely bring about the deterioration of water quality in the poor areas of Antananarivo where most people use either well water or water collected from rice fields.
AGRICULTURE (Cluster Lead: FAO):
On account of the fact that the first rice harvest has already been picked, with the second harvest planted, there is no immediate impact of the political unrest on the sector, according to FAO. However, if the crisis persists, it is predicted that the long term impact on agriculture will take up the form of labour shortages generated by security issues. Experience tells that people are reluctant to migrate for work from other regions under current conditions. This could potentially have a significant impact on the yield and price of rice, as was the case in May 2002.
LOGISTICS AND COMMUNICATION (Cluster Lead: WFP)
The current crisis is impacting on logistics and communication in terms of accessibility, timely delivery of assistance, and interruptions in the flow of information between the capital and the field. The cluster is currently studying the type of impact the ongoing political turmoil will have on logistics and communication, focusing on the measures to be taken to minimize it.
EARLY RECOVERY (Cluster Lead: UNDP):
The Early Recovery network, with the involvement of all UN agencies, is developing an Early Recovery Framework and an Early Recovery Work Plan. Key strategies include:
Reconciliation and stabilisation,
Ensuring equitable governance,
Revitalizing economic livelihoods and food security,
Restoring basic services,
Promoting human rights and gender,
A context-based Post Crisis Needs Assessment (PCNA) with the collaboration of the World Bank and UN agencies,
Initial Livelihood Impact Assessment (ILIA) or Detailed Livelihood Assessment (DLA) with the participation of FAO, ILO and UNDP,
Emphasis on the importance of activities around “responsible communication”, including:
Working with the media and engaging respected local community leaders and elders to (1) change the dynamic of messages from partisan to objective information/facts, and (2) mitigate further violence and looting;
Working on equitable governance advocating for a reconciliation platform if needed.
POLITICAL CRISIS AND ONGOING HUMANITARIAN OPERATIONS
Last week two cyclones, Eric and Fanele, struck the north-eastern and south-western coasts of Madagascar respectively, bringing heavy rain and strong winds to a number of districts. Fortunately, this time the level of damage was moderate. It is believed that existing national capacity, supported by the Humanitarian Country Team, suffices to assume the responsibility for relief efforts for some 54,802 people affected and 4,102 without shelter5. The districts of Mandritsara (Sofia Region, hit by Eric) and Morondava and Manja (Menabe Region, hit by Fanele) have been the most severely affected in general. The cyclone season traditionally continues through April 2009.
Unfortunately, UNICEF staff in the field working on cyclone response have reported a marked decrease in government response to the emergency as the crisis in Antananarivo evolved. Given the current socio-political crisis in Antananarivo, further coordination on emergency cyclone response has been put on hold due to the ongoing unrest. It remains to be seen how soon the activities will pick up at full speed. A meeting of the humanitarian platform, CRIC6, planned on 24 January was already postponed twice until further notice.
In spite of the outlined difficulties, the UN agencies operating in the field are making every effort to keep up their operations in the impacted areas. For example, in collaboration with CRS in Morondava7, WFP had prepositioned 87 Mt of cereals and 13 Mt. of pulses which are being distributed to affected people in the area. Five UNICEF trucks containing education, health and WASH supplies that departed Antananarivo on Friday, 23 January, arrived in Morondava on the weekend of 24-25 January with the intervention starting immediately. In addition, UNICEF is leading repairs and clean-up of affected schools in Morondava in coordination with the Ministry of Education and volunteers from the community. International NGOs such as CARE, CRS, and Aquasure, as well as the Malagasy Red Cross, reportedly continue their operations in the field.
In the south of Madagascar, WFP continues to carry out school feeding, nutrition and FfW8 activities without a reported interruption and UNFPA continues offering basic and reproductive health services and information, including hygiene kits, to drought affected women of reproductive age.
Humanitarian activities are coordinated by the Office of the Resident Coordinator, with the support of UN OCHA. The Cluster Approach is active and operational in Madagascar under the leadership of cluster leads. Coordination of activities in disaster preparedness and management at the UN level is dealt with by a technical group GT PGC (Groupe Thématique pour la Prévention et la Gestion des Catastrophes), chaired and vice-chaired by UNICEF and WFP respectively. The UN Information Centre (CINU) is in charge of the UN information strategy vis-à-vis Malagasy citizens, keeping them informed on UN mission and activities in the country.
Dr. Xavier Leus
Resident Coordinator of the UN System
Information and Advocacy Officer
+261 32 0507 694
National Information Officer
UN Information Centre
Humanitarian Affairs Officer
+261 32 0507 693