Antonella Palermo - Vatican City
The death toll from Tropical Storm Ana in Madagascar, Mozambique and Malawi has risen to 70, as rescue teams scramble to repair damaged infrastructure and help tens of thousands of victims. Torrential rains and landslides have affected all three countries, claiming 41, 18 and 11 lives respectively. Zimbabwe was also affected by the storm, but no deaths were reported.
The fragile communications system is severely tested
In the three African countries hit by Ana, tens of thousands of houses have been damaged, some of them collapsed by heavy rains, and their inhabitants have been trapped in the rubble. Bridges were washed away by swollen rivers, while livestock drowned and fields were flooded, destroying the livelihoods of rural families.
In northern and central Mozambique, Ana destroyed 10,000 houses, dozens of schools and hospitals, and caused power outages. In Malawi, the government declared a state of natural disaster. Among the victims is the administrator of the northwestern city of Tete, who was killed on his way to inspect a bridge that had been closed by flooding. The Shire River, which flows from Lake Malawi through Mozambique to the Zambezi River, has reached alert level causing flooding in low-lying areas. Malawi's main road has been cut off and it is feared that many people have been trapped by the flood waters. There are reports of people who managed to save themselves by clinging to piles of rubbish along the waterways for an entire night before help arrived.
The climate paradox of Madagascar
There are an estimated 110,000 displaced people in Madagascar. In the capital, Antananarivo, schools and gyms have been transformed into emergency shelters. In the nation almost every year there are cyclones and torrential rains, but we have never seen a scenario like this. The complaint comes from Father Innocent Bizimana, Salesian Inspector of Don Bosco for the province of Madagascar and Mauritius.
In an interview, Father Bizimana states: "While in the south of the country there is a total drought because it has not rained for five years, and a million people are starving, in the center there is too much.
Likewise, he speaks of the damage that is added to the already very serious socioeconomic situation in which Madagascar finds itself and describes what is happening as "a real scourge."
Two hours of electricity a day, "we need everything"
The local Church tries to meet the needs of the population, but it is not easy to provide, "also because for two years, with the pandemic, we have been feeding people, but we must consider that we do not have many means", adds the Bizimana father.
Fenosoa is a Malagasy woman who regrets that she can only count on a couple of hours of electricity a day, and five at most. "These rains are much worse than in previous years. The schools are all closed," he says, "and those who have not found accommodation in the gymnasiums have nowhere to go. Some try to give what little they have: food, clothes, soap. We need it all - he appeals - especially for the days to come, when the water disappears."
The risk of epidemics
Francesco Cimino is an Italian doctor who has been living in Madagascar for years. Director of the Akbaraly Foundation, he also runs the NGO "Life for you". He currently works as a volunteer at a center for the seriously ill with Covid-19, called "Stella" in Malagasy. And now he is evaluating the very high risk of an epidemic with the Ministry of Health. Francesco Cimino says:
Dr. Cimino talks about the breakdown of communications through Tabata, the main port, which greatly complicates matters. Food and milk shortages begin. "The system is very fragile," he laments. Here everything travels by truck, there are no trains. "We are trying to coordinate the aid because lately there is no humanitarian aid here. It is a big fight."
Flood damage added to Covid damage
The doctor adds, on the front lines of the fight against the spread of coronavirus infections, that the team he is part of is trying to stop it as best as possible. "Since January 24, we have been able to vaccinate many people who could not easily be vaccinated elsewhere. It is quite a feat," he says. "For many it is the first dose, but for others it is the second. The Covax campaign has gone well here, but with many deficiencies - he says - the real problem is that many people here are afraid of the vaccine. And that is why we have to convince them. Then, in general, there is the aspect linked to the fact that it is not easy at all to check the spread of the epidemic, because the tests are paid for and many people cannot afford them. We do them for free - he concludes - especially for the poorer".