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[NewsNet] Cyclones, Children and Climate Change

Cyclone Ivan pummeled the island nation of Madagascar last month, leaving a vast trail of mangled roads and bridges, smashed homes and schools and ruined crops.

Several news agencies, including the AP, Reuters and Voice of America, reported on the storm, its initial aftermath and the response of UNICEF and others. Commendably, the BBC ran a fairly in-depth story several weeks after the storm. Stories appeared in American newspapers mostly as briefs.

Cyclone Ivan pummeled the island nation of Madagascar last month, leaving a vast trail of mangled roads and bridges, smashed homes and schools and ruined crops.

Several news agencies, including the AP, Reuters and Voice of America, reported on the storm, its initial aftermath and the response of UNICEF and others. Commendably, the BBC ran a fairly in-depth story several weeks after the storm. Stories appeared in American newspapers mostly as briefs.

News coverage has since dwindled, although the story is far from over. In fact, just last week, nearly a month after Cyclone Ivan touched down on Madagascar, UNICEF issued an appeal for $14.7 million in additional emergency aid for the country. The appeal doesn’t yet seem to have drawn much media attention.

Ivan was a Category 3 monster whose strength has been likened to Hurricane Katrina. It hit Madagascar on February 17, killing at least 93 people, making more than 330,000 homeless, and stripping thousands of people of basic health care services. Here’s video showing the storm’s devastation:

Cyclone Ivan followed on the heels of Cyclone Fame, which lacerated the island on January 27.

Nearby Mozambique is still reeling from Cyclone Jokwe, which struck on March 8. UNICEF and its partners have been providing a range of essential interventions in both Madagascar and Mozambique.

Background note: At least six cyclones struck Madagascar in 2007. The regularity of these brutal storms, along with chronic droughts and floods, makes it extraordinarily difficult for this already struggling country (Madagascar ranks 143 out of 177 countries on the Human Development Index) to rise out of poverty.

The UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development said in a press release earlier this month that cyclones have increased in frequency and intensity and named climate change as a culprit. Late last year, UNICEF released a report citing evidence that climate change can contribute to natural disasters and to the spread of lethal diseases like diarrhea and malaria”and that children in developing countries bear the brunt of these miseries.

Have you followed the humanitarian response in the wake of Cyclone Ivan? Do you feel the news coverage of this and other natural disasters in developing countries has been adequate? What do you think about the role of climate change in natural disasters and international development?

Let me know.

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