HL Deb 28 March 1994 vol 553 cc827-8

Lord Merrivale asked Her Majesty's Government:

What aid they are giving to Madagascar to assist its recovery from the effects of Cyclone Geralda on 2nd and 3rd February.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey)

My Lords, we have provided aid worth around £312,000 in total. That includes contributions to the non-government organisation, CARE, for its emergency relief programme in Brickaville, our share of the European Community's relief efforts and the local purchase of five tonnes of dried fish for distribution to those worst affected by the cyclone.

Lord Merrivale

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that Answer. Does she agree that a special relationship exists with that country, dating back to the last century, which was brought about largely by our missionaries in the early 1820s, the desire for closer ties and the signing of a treaty of friendship and commerce on 27th June 1865? Should not Madagascar's appeal be considered more sympathetically by the Government than is the case at present?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, we have helped Madagascar in a number of ways, both in giving it meteorological information before the cyclone and in responding to Cyclone Geralda in the way that I have described. We have helped with the dangerous situation brought about by Cyclone Litanne which hit the Brickaville area on 16th March. Last Friday Cyclone Nadya fortunately passed over the north side of the island and did not do as much damage as the previous cyclones. However, since last weekend a damage assessment mission has been present in Madagascar to give further assistance. We respond immediately to Madagascar's urgent needs and we also run a technical co-operation programme there; and, I am glad to say, we have excellent relations with that country.

Lord Judd

My Lords, although noble Lords will be glad to hear about the relief that we have been able to supply, will the Minister not agree that, after devastating events of that kind, it is very often the reconstruction over a longer period which is the most demanding challenge of all? Will the Minister tell the House a little about what we and our partners in Europe are doing in that respect?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, it seems that we are almost in the lead there. The Community has committed some £890,000 in support of NGO activity by CARE. We have monitoring missions in the area affected and, together with the European Community and the United Nations Department for Humanitarian Affairs, we shall do what is necessary to help. However, I ask the noble Lord to remember that they are an able people. While they may need a little help, we do not need to do everything for them.

Lord Merrivale

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that Cyclone Geralda was the worst cyclone since 1927, with winds gusting up to 220 miles per hour over a width of 500 miles? It left many families homeless, caused widespread flooding and destroyed harvests? It is a very special case.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, I agree with my noble friend that it is a disastrous situation. I do not dispute any of my noble friend's facts about the devastation. We have targeted our response to the worst affected area, as wished by the Government of Madagascar. We have offered more help as it is needed. That is why we have an assessment mission there at present which is led by the British ambassador, representatives of the UN and representatives of CARE. We shall do what is needed, however bad the situation may be.

Back to
Forward to