‘The cyclones are becoming stronger and more devastating’
Commandant Faly started working with Madagascar’s National Disaster Management Authority, the Bureau National de Gestion des Risques et Catastrophes (BNGRC) in December 2014 but has been working as a Civil Protection Officer in Madagascar for more than ten years. During this time, he has participated and led some the country’s most challenging humanitarian response efforts.
The Logistics Cluster is working in Madagascar with the BNGRC, as part of global preparedness initiatives to enhance supply chain resilience in some of the world’s most at-risk countries. This month, we caught up with Commandant Faly on the country’s major challenges and paving the way forward for strengthened logistics coordination and emergency operations.
What type of emergency is the most challenging?
The biggest challenges occur during a cyclone because of the complexities, bringing heavy rains and severe flooding. This flooding can last for days, cutting off whole areas and causing landslides that trigger additional loss of lives and damage. This uncontrollable amount of water, especially stagnant water, can also cause severe health problems.
It’s a domino effect: one emergency is triggered by another.
What was the most challenging emergency response that you’ve worked in?
Cyclone Indlala in 2007: it was an intense tropical cyclone, classified as Category 4 on the Saffir-Simpson scale. It caused USD $240 million in damage and resulted in more than 150 fatalities, with over 150,000 people directly affected.
Indlala impacted all of Madagascar. It was very difficult to get a hold of the situation, especially considering the large size of the country. It was in this crisis that I first worked with the support of the Logistics Cluster.
Tell us about your personal experience working in the response.
During the cyclone season of 2006-2007, I worked as a platoon leader in the Corps de Protection Civile (CPC). I came to support and advise the BNGRC in this challenging humanitarian operation; specifically, how to best use national military assets and how to set up a humanitarian supply chain. I liaised between humanitarians and the air force for use of the airbridge. We mainly managed evacuations of endangered villages and organised distributions of urgently needed relief items.
Have you noticed a change in the frequency and severity of weather events and natural disasters?
Although Madagascar is naturally prone to cyclones, getting hit by an average of 3-4 storms annually, within the last few years they have become more intense. They’re stronger and more devastating than before and the trajectories have become atypical.
For example, the frequency of cyclones formed in the Canal of Mozambique has increased and the length of the cyclone season is expanding. In some years the cyclone season started as early as October, ending only in July. This is also atypical as the season is usually between November and April.
What have your past experiences taught you that have allowed you to better prepare for disasters?
It is important to strengthen the capacity of people at all levels to respond to the disasters we are facing, as well as enhancing supply chain capacity overall.
For example, ensuring cyclone resilience measures are put in place, such as adapting construction styles to be more wind-resistant or implementing early warning systems that help detect different kinds of emergencies before they occur.
What has changed since you started working with the Logistics Cluster on preparedness?
Before Logistics Cluster preparedness activities began in Madagascar, we were working in a very reactive manner. Now we have adopted a more proactive approach in that we are anticipating the possible bottlenecks and disruptions to the supply chain.
We now have a much clearer picture on possible access and transport constraints.
A recent highlight was the action plan that was developed with representatives from government and the humanitarian community. This plan will guide us to gradually improve our level of preparedness throughout the country, addressing the various preparedness issues in Madagascar in a targeted, empowering, localised and sensitive manner. This will guarantee the development of supply chain resilience in Madagascar.
We envision forming our own logistics response team in Madagascar that is trained for emergency operations and is well-equipped to respond to national and international disasters. If we can develop our own logistics response team, then we can partner with the international teams that come to support us during severe disasters, if our capacities have been depleted.
Therefore, we are looking forward to the Logistics Response Team Training (LRT) next year in Madagascar. The LRT, adapted specifically to the Madagascar context, will allow us to improve the efficiency of our response during an emergency.
For you, what are the advantages of working with a broad community of humanitarians during disasters?
Working with a big community allows us to leverage on the different expertise and backgrounds of everyone involved. The constant exchange means continuous learning and improvement.
In Madagascar, we are in the process of implementing our new national strategy for disaster risk management. Our objective is to be resilient to disaster risks, to contribute to sustainable development.
Even if our developing capacities are strong enough to respond to first emergency situations, the high severity of a disaster at the national level may lead us to ask for international assistance; if ever that moment came, we need support, and it’s good to stay connected to the humanitarian community. However, Madagascar also has a lot to contribute to the humanitarian community, such as how to better include communities in emergencies and crisis management.
Collaboration is mutual. This is also true for the preparedness project with the Global Logistics Cluster: it is a mutual learning process.