Calls to give back a smile to Malagasy communities affected by Cyclones Batsiraï and Emnati

Publication date: Mar 22, 2022

Madagascar, which has already been facing extreme drought in a large area of the south for months, is now facing a severe cyclone season. Ana, Dumako, Emnati, Batsiraï: two cyclones and two tropical storms that have devastated parts of the south and east of the country since the end of January, leaving thousands of people affected. Our team arrives on Thursday 10 February in Mananjary, on the east coast of the large Island. As soon as we arrive, we split into two teams, in order to be able to respond to the different needs identified: support for humanitarian coordination and calling operations for the affected people.

The coordination centre in Mananjary immediately becomes the main coordination centre for the humanitarian response. The connection installed by TSF allows the different humanitarian organisations to receive and share information and thus have a better understanding of the needs on the ground. "We are lucky that you're here", several people say as they connect to the TSF network. "The connection is essential to be able to be in contact with our headquarters and to provide information in real time. Without your connection we would be non-operational," Marie Pierre, from the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), says.

In parallel, the other part of the team starts the calling operations. Shelters for the affected population were set up after Batsiraï and this is where we decide to conduct most of the operations. For several days, we move from centre to centre to allow people to call their loved ones to share information about their situation, ask for help or simply feel reassured by hearing their voices. According to the evaluations conducted during the operations, 40% of them have sought help through the calls made. Sometimes these calls represent a new beginning for them.

"If you weren't here, we wouldn't be able to communicate with our families," one woman says, hugging us in gratitude. Seeing the relieved looks and big smiles when they hear the voice of their loved ones, gives to our mission its full meaning. Their faces change, talking to their loved ones reassures them and gives them strength. Indeed, 40% say that the calls made them feel better psychologically and 76% that it had a positive impact on their lives. For more than half of them, it was their first call after the cyclone. They are very grateful. "Excellent work, don't stop doing what you're doing,"  one person says as she hands the phone back to us. The Malagasy word of mouth that everyone was talking about, works. Overnight, people start to recognise us and, as we walk down the street, we are stopped and asked to make a call.

Two weeks later, a new cyclone threatens... Emnati. "It is emotionally exhausting... After Batsiraï, we spent days cleaning and rebuilding, now we have to prepare for Emnati", says the hotel receptionist. Also, talking to people the day before Emnati, we realise how scared they are, they ask us several times if we are going to stay, and say that they will still need a lot of help. "We are not going anywhere", we answer. The next day, as soon as the wind gusts of Emnati calm down, we immediately go to one of the shelters, aware of the need to communicate. We quickly get settled and everyone starts to gather around us. Everyone wants to call. The relief and smiles of the people when they hear a voice from the other end of the phone completely erase the fear of the previous night.

And so, after a month in the field, 14 humanitarian calling operations and the support to humanitarian coordination, it's time to think about reconstruction. Already present in the country through the IT CUP project, TSF is studying the possibility of continuing its support to Malagasy communities. The humanitarian coordination centre, and therefore all the organisations still active in the reconstruction phase, continue to benefit from the connection installed by TSF a few days after the passage of Batsiraï, monitored remotely from its headquarters.

Victoria Del Pozo,
Communication Officer

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