WCO, Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation and the National Center for Disaster Preparedness joint efforts to support Madagascar in preparing its response to the tropical cyclone season

17 February 2022

On 4 and 11 February 2022 the WCO COVID-19 Project funded by the Government of Japan in cooperation with the Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation (Alliance) and the National Center for Disaster Preparedness (NCDP) of Columbia University organized 2 workshops in Antananarivo to assist Madagascar Customs and other stakeholders in enhancing their preparedness in facing the COVID-19 pandemic and other emergency situations, such as the cyclone season. The in-person meeting brought together more than 30 participants, representing Customs, the national disaster management office (BNGRC), border authorities and a number of stakeholders involved in relief operations at the national level, such as humanitarian actors. The meeting allowed further discussion of the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) that were finalized with the support of the COVID-19 Project in December 2021 that aim to expedite the movement of relief consignments in case of infectious diseases, natural disasters and other disruptive events and to enhance their use to respond to the ongoing emergency. It also served as an opportunity to provide a training environment for emergency management, to evaluate disaster response plans, policies and procedures, and to develop an in-house capacity to conduct exercises, thus improving the overall resilience of Madagascar’s disaster governance in accordance with national and international response mechanisms.

An exercise had been initially planned to simulate a fictional natural disaster. However, on 5-6 February Tropical Cyclone Batsirai hit the south-east coast of Madagascar, putting at high risk the survival of the population and causing widespread damage and destruction, including to the infrastructure needed to deliver humanitarian aid, such as the main access road to the eastern part of the country. The scenario-based exercise plan was therefore promptly reviewed by organizing partners and a “Pre-landing cyclone preparedness workshop” was held on 4 February to check the protocols in place and identify any areas of intervention requiring immediate attention.

A debriefing session was then organized on 11 February to evaluate the functioning of the SOPs and to develop a plan for their continuous improvement. With the support of international experts, Customs representatives and other stakeholders’ views were exchanged with one another on the challenges encountered during the peak of humanitarian operations and how to maintain the long-term effectiveness of emergency protocols, including by reducing red tape and ensuring the expedited clearance of relief goods and equipment. The results of the debriefing session will be instrumental in fostering the interoperability between emergency response organizations, allowing future relief efforts to be scaled up in a coordinated manner and to clarify the role and responsibilities of each actor in the humanitarian supply chain, thus avoiding confusion or delays in the running of operations. They will also better prepare all concerned stakeholders for the joint implementation of an agreed, up-to-date, emergency plan that can be activated as soon as the country is threatened by one or multiple overlapping disasters, as often happens in the context of the current COVID-19 pandemic when the occurrence of unpredictable natural disasters compounds the difficulties brought about by the health emergency.

This activity carried out in Madagascar is an additional step in the framework of the yearlong support provided to the country by the WCO COVID-19 Project which was able to help the national Customs administration analyze the existing bottlenecks for the facilitation of critical goods and review, update and test Customs procedures in accordance with the latest WCO instruments and tools and other international standards.