23 February 2012 The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is helping to build hundreds of temporary classrooms in towns and villages in eastern Madagascar to replace those destroyed during a deadly cyclone last week.
About 1,350 classrooms were destroyed or badly damaged when Cyclone Giovanna struck the Indian Ocean country, and national officials have reported that at least 26 people were killed and 80,000 people affected in the disaster. Agricultural production was also hit and as many as 30,000 homes were destroyed.
UNICEF’s emergency coordinator in Madagascar, Dominic Stolarow, told the UN News Centre today that education facilities were disproportionately damaged by the cyclone, in part because so many are comprised of wood and thatched roofs instead of concrete or other sturdier materials.
“One of the keys to recovery here will be to rebuild many schools so that they are cyclone-resistant in the future,” he said.
Many school buildings across the country pre-date the 2004 law in Madagascar that requires all new public buildings in at-risk areas to meet minimum anti-cyclone standards.
Mr. Stolarow called for the upgrading of existing school facilities to be a priority, as well as for the construction of new classrooms and schools to replace those already lost to the cyclone.
Within the next two weeks UNICEF hopes to have as many as 650 temporary classrooms up and running. Construction takes a day and uses local materials and plastic sheeting.
But Mr. Stolarow stressed that this is only a temporary solution and more permanent facilities that can weather disasters must be built soon.
The agency is also continuing its efforts to improve sanitation and hygiene in the country, especially in those areas that experienced flooding. Water wells have been disinfected and hygiene promotion campaigns are under way.
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