Politics and Society
Storm season in Madagascar and the ongoing effects of climate change
Tropical storm Dumako hit Madagascar last week shortly after Cyclone Batsirai damaged over 124,000 homes and killed multiple people. The island nation is going through storm season and another cyclone, Emnati, is forecast to hit close to the same area affected by Batsirai.
Madagascar has had a very devastating year so far, and the worst may not be behind them. From the top of the year, torrential rains have caused flooding in the Analamanga region, affecting eight districts of the Grand Tana and 38 fokontany (communities, the lower administrative level). Tropical Ana made landfall on the 23rd of January and the Malagasy National Disaster Management Office reported more than 55 deaths and widespread devastation to livelihoods, with submerged schools, health facilities, and houses.
Shortly after, in mid-February (barely two weeks later) Cyclone Batsirai hit. This second destructive storm left about 120 people dead, over 124,000 people with damaged or destroyed homes, about 30,000 more displaced, and camping in informal sites. While the island nation was still reeling, tropical storm Dumako made landfall, displacing a further 4,323 people according to Reuters.
The Director-General of Madagascar’s disaster management officer Gen. Elack Andriakaja said in a press statement, “The winds from storm Dumako are not as strong as those from Cyclone Batsirai. But you have to be careful about floods and landslides which could cause deaths.”
Unfortunately, weather forecasters with the national meteorological service predict that another cyclone, Emnati, will hit close to the area affected by Batsirai during this storm period. In addition to this looming prediction and those of other weather systems, Madagascar is trying to manage a lengthy climate-induced famine and the affected livelihoods and exacerbating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
CNN reported that Madagascar’s state disaster relief agency has been providing basics to the people in temporary shelters, while international relief agencies have stepped in to fill some of the gaps. In the wake of any major disaster (let alone three), these efforts help stave away hunger, homelessness, and disease. But more needs to be done to tackle the effects of climate change and in the prevention of future crises.
Building climate resilience over temporary relief efforts
Madagascar is part of the ‘Vulnerable Twenty’, a dedicated cooperation initiative of economies systemically vulnerable to climate change. The group originated from the Climate Vulnerable Forum’s Costa Rica Action Plan (2013-2015) that anticipated “high-level policy dialogue pertaining to action on climate change and the promotion of climate-resilient and low emission development with full competence for addressing economic and financial issues beyond the remit of any one organization.”
They outlined proactive instead of reactive plans that include promoting the mobilisation of public and private climate finance, developing new and improved approaches to climate finance, sharing and exchanging best practices on economic and financial aspects of climate action, and engaging in joint advocacy and other collective actions.
Other African countries that make up the 48 member states of the V20 are Burkina Faso, Niger, Comoros, Rwanda, DRC, Ethiopia, Senegal, Gambia, South Sudan, Ghana, Sudan, Kenya, Tanzania, Tunisia, Malawi, and Morocco.
Each of these countries is aware that without strategic and systematic interventions in the near future, the development of vulnerable countries will be severely impacted by climate change. Climate change has drastic effects on food security in countries that depend on agriculture. Their infrastructure losses and population displacement remain long term.
World Bank Country Manager for Madagascar, Coralie Gevers told the World Bank, “Climate change is not only about preparing for and responding better to weather-related disasters. It is also about rethinking a country’s development strategy so that it strengthens the resiliency of people’s livelihood and the economy. ”
Although efforts to build resilience are underway, international intervention, adoption, and mass support are low, and countries like Madagascar are losing time.