When Tropical Cyclone Giovanna slammed into the eastern coast of Madagascar on Valentine’s Day, relief agencies recognized the storm as a potentially catastrophic event — but not an unpredictable one. Dangerous cyclones are not unusual for the Indian Ocean island: cyclones and tropical storms affect Madagascar almost every year. Giovanna’s strong winds destroyed more than 44,000 houses and left thousands homeless. Because some vulnerable populations, including the elderly, female-headed households, and fishing villages in coastal areas, lack the resources necessary to prepare for extreme weather, USAID took steps to ensure they receive the relief they need quickly.
Understanding the recurring nature of cyclones in Madagascar, USAID and its partner CARE annually pre-position plastic sheeting in areas susceptible to cyclones. Reinforced plastic sheeting — an inexpensive, versatile, and high-quality temporary building material — can be used in combination with traditional building techniques and locally available materials to repair damaged homes or construct temporary emergency shelter for affected families.
Even before Cyclone Giovanna struck, USAID had pre-positioned nearly 400 rolls of plastic sheeting in a CARE warehouse in Vatomandry—one of the two districts most affected by the cyclone—ready for immediate distribution.
Within days of the cyclone, with USAID support, CARE was distributing plastic sheeting to the most affected and vulnerable families. It was able to move quickly due to its established connections with local communities, as well as the proximity of pre-positioned supplies to cyclone-affected populations. CARE dispatched 285 rolls of USAID plastic sheeting in under a week to the most affected villages, allowing 2,850 vulnerable families to mend damaged roofs or make other repairs, and helping more than 14,000 people recover from the effects of Cyclone Giovanna.