When Cyclone Idai hit Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe on 14 March, it was one of the worst weather-related catastrophes in Africa in recent times. The death toll across the three countries is at least 700, with hundreds of people still missing. The devastation has affected 3 million people, nearly two-thirds of them in Mozambique, and this number will rise. One million people across the three countries need life-saving assistance. The cyclone destroyed entire towns and villages, and wiped out hundreds of thousands of hectares of farmland on the eve of the next harvest. The United Nations has launched an emergency appeal for US $281 million to save lives and kick-start recovery in Mozambique. Appeals for Malawi and Zimbabwe will be issued in the next few days. Here we document the storm's impact and the humanitarian response, in Mozambique so far.
Search and rescue coming to a close
Within hours of the cyclone hitting, international search and rescue teams mobilized to join volunteer and Government efforts to rescue and evacuate survivors. The cities of Beira and Buzi were particularly hard-hit. Hundreds of Buzi residents took shelter in the stands of a stadium, where they have slept in the open air for a week, with nowhere to go. Beira City, with a population of over 500,000, and its surrounding villages, were practically razed by the flooding. Electricity to Beira has been cut and all of the roads and bridges destroyed, so the only means of access is via boat or plane.
Aid operations are scaling up
Aid agencies are rapidly scaling up their emergency assistance. We have distributed thousands of emergency kits with food, medicine, water purification gear and shelter to communities that are still stranded by flood waters. We are now rapidly gearing up our food, shelter, health and cholera prevention and protection responses.
Cholera vaccines on their way
Aid agencies are bringing 900,000 oral cholera vaccines into the country to roll out a mass campaign. Stagnant water, lack of hygiene and sanitation provides a perfect breeding ground for cholera and malaria.
Food prices soaring
Tropical Cyclone Idai hit a vast area that is already suffering from poverty, drought and climate change. Early estimates report half a million hectares of crops in Mozambique's bread basket have been wiped out just before the harvest. Food scarcity is causing prices to soar – in Beira city, the price of some staple foods has risen by 500 per cent. So far, we have reached 100,000 people with food assistance and are scaling up to reach many more.
Rebuilding must begin now
The Government estimates 90,000 homes have been destroyed, and 128,000 people are taking shelter in 154 temporary sites across the country. There is an urgent need to invest in rebuilding from the very get-go, stresses the Government and aid agency heads.
Sheltering in schools
Thousands of displaced families are taking shelter in schools and other public buildings that haven't been destroyed. Education services need to get up and running as soon as possible, say aid agencies. Hortencia, below said: “My house collapsed. I had to leave in the middle of the night with my children. I was so afraid. The wind was so strong and trees were falling. I wasn't sure we would survive.”
Displace people at the Samora Machel school. Credit: UNICEF