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WFP assists cyclone and flood victims in Madagascar

ANTANARIVO - As part of its response to Cyclone Gafilo which has hit Madagascar twice in the past ten days, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) announced today that it is sending a first shipment of 20 tonnes of food aid for up to 1,000 people who have been stranded by rising flood waters in the south-west.

Between 500 and 1,000 people were discovered on Sunday evening, clinging to rooftops in the Mangoki River Delta, 30-40 km north of Marombe. They became stranded after heavy rain followed Cyclone Gafilo last week.

"Initial assessment missions over the area showed no effects resulting from the cyclone," said Gianluca Ferrera, WFP Deputy Country Director in Madagascar. "But the heavy rains that followed Gafilo overwhelmed the region's river system and much of the area has now been flooded."

The Government of Madagascar has deployed the military to help rescue people stranded by the floodwater. They are being taken to Morombe where they will receive food and shelter until the water recedes. WFP's assistance will be enough to feed 1,000 people for up to one month.

WFP plans to move the food, which includes rice and pulses, from its warehouse in Tulear by boat within the next day. More shipments of food are scheduled in the weeks ahead. The response is only part of WFP's national support to victims of Cyclone Gafilo.

In the north-east of Madagascar, WFP has started distributing some 260 tonnes of food in the region of Antahala. An estimated 35,000 people are stranded south of the city, cut off by the floodwaters that have also destroyed bridges and roads.

Antahala is the worst-affected region in Madagascar. The government estimates that 70 percent of the population has been affected by Gafilo and a staggering 50 percent of the population lost their homes.

"There are thousands of people who need immediate assistance as well as those who are going to need help for the months ahead," Ferrera said. "Much of the country's rice, vanilla, manioc and other crops have been totally decimated and it will take time for these to grow back."

Nationally, the Government estimates that 74 people were killed by Gafilo, with a further 117 people unaccounted for. The cyclone destroyed 117,000 hectares of agricultural land and affected more than 200,000 people. The Government has declared Gafilo the worst cyclone to strike Madagascar in 20 years.

WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency. In 2003 WFP fed nearly 104 million people in 81 countries including most of the world's refugees and internally displaced people.

WFP Global School Feeding Campaign -- As the largest provider of nutritious meals to poor school children, WFP has launched a global campaign aimed at ensuring the world's 300 million undernourished children are educated.

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