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Run-up to COP27: Loss and damage in Madagascar needs robust assessment

Rising global temperatures have affected Madagascar heavily, with extreme events like wildfires and cyclone-induced heavy rainfall and flooding.

Wildfires during the dry season (August-December) and powerful cyclones during the wet season, from January, cause considerable loss and damage to the country.

They have a long-term impact on the population’s livelihoods. The island has been facing wildfires, burning up vast surfaces of forests, since September. It coincided with the beginning of the dry season this year.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Protected areas and national parks, home to an array of endemic plants and animals, are affected. An emergency body was set up in early October to deal with the issue that threatens the country’s natural resources and ecosystems, estimated at $3,500 by the World Bank.

“Madagascar is currently among of the world’s top 10 vulnerable countries impacted by climate change,” said Haja Manampisoa Randriasandratana, the contact point on loss and damage for the country.

Nearly two million people suffer from drought-induced famine, the official added.

The recurrent drought striking the southern regions such as Androy, Atsimo Andrefana and Anosy stretched to the adjacent Atsimo Atsinanana.

Low rainfall rates and a decline in water resources result in severe drought. The affected regions are permanently prone to high temperatures and violent winds, which tend to intensify over the last few years. 

The combined factors culminated in an unprecedented humanitarian crisis linked to food insecurity.

Drought has been affecting vulnerable regions over the last four decades. However, the effects of climate change worsened inequalities and human rights issues.

More than one million people needed food emergency assistance in 2020, against 890,000 two years ago.

In Ambovombe, among others, the harsh conditions contribute to the spread of infectious diseases like HIV and tuberculosis and non-communicable diseases like kidney stones and blood pressure.

“The most important thing is to survive for many. They don’t take care of their protection against any health risks,” said Dr Tsivahiny Paubert, the public health regional director for Androy.

The impacts of climate change erode mental health in drought-hit regions. The number of locals with neurosis tends to grow due to the stressful situation.

“Our centre hosts around 700 people. Over 300 people are suffering from mental health issues. Many are in severe stages of it,” said the Lutheran Pastor Arsène Famonjea who supervises the christian-run revivalism centre Mahavelo in the suburbs of Ambovombe.

The centre registers a monthly average of three or four deaths. In Madagascar, most families entrust the revivalists to care for those suffering from mental health issues.

The stigma surrounding mental illness is widespread in the country. Each year, cyclones affect the rest of the territory unhurt by the drought.

Scientific records highlight tropical cyclones that made landfall in Madagascar from 1961-2017. These cyclones brought winds with speeds around 89-212 kilometres per hour.

Some 38 cyclones made landfall on the island between 2000-2020. Meteorological data show that the southwestern basin of the Indian Ocean has experienced increasing heavy rainfall and powerful cyclones.

Cyclones killed 1,193 persons, destroyed 0.6 million houses and affected four million, according to Damage and Losses Assessment.

Six tropical cyclones made landfall over Madagascar between January and April. They devastated the population’s livelihoods and damaged cash and food crops. And significantly reduced the ability of affected households to meet basic food needs, especially in the eastern districts.

The damage was estimated at $61 million in food crops, $78 million in cash crops and $1.5 million in livestock. Cyclone-induced flooding and subsequent damage to the agricultural sector and infrastructure is still being felt in areas along the south-eastern coast. These areas will likely continue to experience acute food insecurity through January 2023, according to Famine Early Warning Systems Network. 

The south-eastern regional capital of Mananjary, one of the hardest hit, hosted the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction October 13.

The government is primarily responsible for the loss and damage assessment and implementing the Climatic Risk Management National Strategy, Randriasandratana underlined.

It requests the state and other stakeholders to ensure good governance of risks and disasters and their induced impacts. It focuses, among others, on the capacity building of the actors and the loss and damage assessment in particular.

Periodic update of the multi-risks and multi-hazards contingency plans constitutes the essential step of the assessment process. The National Office of Risk and Disaster Management (BNGRC) coordinates the information gathering at local, regional and national levels.

At the national level, humanitarian focal points at each ministry and government agencies work with humanitarian groups — including the UN agencies, non-profits, Red Cross and Red Crescent.

The sectors covered are water and sanitation, education, habitat, infrastructure, nutrition, civil protection, health and food security. The assessment at the regional and local levels is the responsibility of the collectivities in cooperation with local non-profits.

The situation of vulnerable groups, such as pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, the elderly, people with disabilities and children, should be considered in the data collection process as feasible.

“The process requires countless efforts and investments. Even though developed countries have robust risk and disaster management plans, they are still badly hit. The reason is the phenomena the world faces are become more complex ever,” said John Heriniandry Razafimandimby, director of the center for research and monitoring, Bureau National de Gestion des Risques et des Catastrophes.

Loss and damage due to natural disasters in Madagascar aren’t insured. However, financial instruments for risk and disaster management exist.

The government makes some arrangements in its budget. Imports that reduce any damage post-disasters are free of taxes and other taxation fees. Other types of funding are available too.

They include the Contingency National Fund, Immediate Response Mechanism, Catastrophe Deferred Drawdown Option, drought and cyclone insurance of the African Risk Capacity and the German-funded insurance climatic risk.

Civil society organisations are keeping a watchful eye on events. They urge taking the problem’s scale into account.

“Usually, we have partial calculations of the annual loss and damage for countries as they only take into consideration the direct losses of extreme weather,” said Volahery Andriamanantenasoa, programmes manager at the Antananarivo-based Research and Support Centre for Development Alternatives – Indian Ocean.

The indirect impacts like food insecurity and slow onset impacts like sea level rise are not also taken into account, Andriamanantenasoa added.

The assessment should be based on the need and with the view to help and empower vulnerable people facing climate impact and empowerment, the human rights specialist insisted.

The whole process should consider equality and basic human rights, including the right to food, adequate housing, clean water, health and culture.

The gender equality approach is one of the raised points. That offers co-benefits of gender inclusiveness and equality and loss and damage objectives.

Considering loss and damage and gender inequalities together could help understand the gravity of the climate crisis.

“Especially for Madagascar, it is highly needed to establish effective decentralisation in order to put in place an effective documentation, monitoring and reporting system that allows for the collect of reliable, inclusive, and disaggregated data from affected communities and local authorities, which are based on appropriate and specific indicators,” Andriamanantenasoa said.

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