“Urgent assistance is needed to provide for the many thousands of people affected by this overwhelming series of natural hazards,” UN Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes said. Immediate needs include food to prevent acute malnutrition; drugs, water and sanitation to treat and prevent waterborne diseases; and agricultural input such as seeds and fertilizer to restore agricultural production. Additional needs include shelter and non food items, child protection, health, education, logistics and coordination. Since December, a series of cyclones, with accompanying heavy rainfall, has lashed several regions of the Indian Ocean island nation, damaging large swathes of land. Some 293,000 people are expected to require assistance in the coming months, including 33,000 displaced persons and 260,000 others affected by the loss of up to 80 per cent of crops in south-eastern areas of the country. “Madagascar has been hit by a series of cyclones this year, which has drained in-country supplies,” UN Resident Coordinator Bouri Sanhouidi said. “We need to replenish relief supplies to ensure that we are prepared, as more rains are expected along with possible cyclones.” Last month, the Government launched a $242-million appeal for help in responding to needs created by the severe floods that started in December, as well as an existing drought situation prevailing in the south, which has affected 582,000 people. Madagascar, with a population of some 18 million, is prone to a wide range of natural disasters, which regularly cause damage to the local communities as well as set-backs to economic growth. The country ranks 143 out of 177 countries on the 2006 Human Development Index. 16 March 2007The United Nations and its humanitarian partners today launched a $9.6-million six-month Flash Appeal for Madagascar to aid nearly 300,000 people affected by heavy flooding and cyclones.