Blue Ventures is responding to tropical cyclone Haruna, the biggest cyclone to hit southwest Madagascar in more than 35 years, by distributing vital health supplies to affected communities in the Velondriake area.
Tropical cyclone Haruna hit southwest Madagascar as a powerful category 2 storm on Friday 22nd February 2013, with heavy rain and wind speeds of 150km/h. Haruna was the biggest cyclone that this region had experienced in more than 35 years, causing widespread flooding and infrastructural damage.
Following the cyclone, villages throughout much of this region have been struggling to access clean water. Wells have been contaminated by runoff mixed with rubbish and human waste, and a significant proportion of the population is suffering from diarrhoea. There is also an elevated risk of malaria owing to abundant standing water providing ideal breeding grounds for mosquitos, and people sleeping out in the open since their homes have been destroyed are particularly vulnerable.
In light of this critical situation, Blue Ventures launched a special appeal for donations, raising more than £5,000 from generous individuals in less than a week. Immediately after the cyclone hit, Blue Ventures started working with its network of community-based distributors to gather information about pressing health needs and distribute available health supplies throughout the Velondriake area. A comprehensive distribution plan was then drawn up in order to reach priority villages, home to some 15,000 people.
Procurement and transport of further health supplies proved to be a serious challenge, with stock-outs across the southwest region, and severe flooding blocking roads. Blue Ventures subsequently shifted the focus of its procurement efforts to the capital city of Antananarivo, and managed to negotiate transporting its supplies on special aid boats. Distribution of water purifying solution, diarrhoea treatment kits and insecticide-treated mosquito nets is currently underway across 20 villages in and around the Velondriake area.
Blue Ventures is also partnering with the relief organisation ShelterBox to deliver 200 Family LifeStraw water filters to villages in the remote commune of Befandefa. Through this collaboration, Blue Ventures is setting up filtering stations at contaminated water points, with multiple LifeStraws at each location that can be used by community members with support from designated and trained supervisors. Each Family LifeStraw filters up to 10 litres of water per hour and has a lifespan of around 18,000 litres of water per filter.
“We didn’t have enough water purifying solution to meet the tremendous demand following the cyclone, so having these LifeStraws is enabling us to provide whole communities with safe drinking water, even when they only have access to extremely contaminated traditional water sources,” reports Caroline Savitzky, Blue Ventures’ community health programme coordinator in Andavadoaka. Voahirana, a young woman from Andavadoaka, knew that access to safe drinking water was a problem following the cyclone, and was concerned when her two children, aged 3 and 6 years old, contracted diarrhoea. She says, “thankfully they are better now, and I am making sure that all of our drinking water is filtered at the Family LifeStraw station, so that way I know it is safe.” Blue Ventures has already installed Family LifeStraws in several schools and at accessible points throughout numerous villages, and uptake has been very encouraging.
“This experience of front-line disaster response is highlighting to us the huge – and perhaps unexpected – benefits of working in an integrated way. It is thanks to Blue Ventures’ health expertise and our integrated Population-Health-Environment (PHE) approach, built on strong community relations and social networks, that we have been able to respond to tropical cyclone Haruna so quickly and effectively in this remote location,” reflects Dr Vik Mohan, Blue Ventures’ medical director in the UK. “Our permanent presence in the region will enable us to transition this emergency response into a longer-term capacity building effort, and our integrated PHE approach will underpin this work in order to ensure that communities affected by cyclone Haruna are empowered to become more resilient to natural disasters in the future.”
Blue Ventures is an award-winning marine conservation organisation that works with local communities to conserve threatened marine and coastal environments, both protecting biodiversity and alleviating poverty. For more details about Blue Ventures’ response to tropical cyclone Haruna, please see this latest update or contact Laura Robson. Further information about tropical cyclone Haruna can be accessed via ReliefWeb.