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Cyclone Idai: Hundreds killed after storm hits Southern Africa

News20 March 2019Jason Kennedy

More than 430 people have been killed with hundreds more missing across Southern Africa due to one of the worst tropical cyclones on record.

A rising death toll

Cyclone Idai landed in the area last week and has so far caused around 270 deaths in Mozambique, almost 100 in Zimbabwe, 60 in Malawi, 10 in South Africa and 2 in Madagascar.

More than 2.5 million people experienced the direct effects of the cyclone, with hundreds of thousands in need of humanitarian assistance.

In Mozambique, The World Food Programme (WFP) aims to support 600,000 people affected by the cyclone, which struck with wind speeds in excess of 150 kilometres per hour. In Malawi, the UN agency plans to target 650,000 people with food assistance.

Studies of satellite images suggested 1.7 million people were in the path of the cyclone in Mozambique and another 920,000 affected in Malawi, according to WFP.

People in badly-affected areas remain on their rooftops as their homes are submerged by floodwaters, desperately awaiting humanitarian aid.

People affected by Cyclone Idai. Photo: Concern Worldwide
People affected by Cyclone Idai. Photo: Concern Worldwide

Worldwide response

Ireland’s embassy in Mozambique’s capital Maputo is diverting €400k to provide food, shelter and sanitation, according to Tanaiste Simon Coveney.

The European Union released 3.5 million euros in emergency aid, and the UK pledged up to £6 million. Neighbouring Tanzania’s military airlifted 238 tons of food and medicine.

In Malawi, a total of 56 people were killed during Idai's first landfall and 577 others were reported injured as a result of flooding. Around 920,000 people have been affected by the cyclone and 82,000 people have been displaced,

It has been reported that Malawi’s government is now in need of $16.4 million (€14.5 million) to ease the damage due to flooding.

Malawi’s President Peter Mutharika has reaffirmed government commitment to ensuring that all people displaced by the devastating storm are looked after.

“We will do everything possible to ensure lives of people that have been affected by the floods return to normal,” Mutharika said.

Country Director of Malawi Yousaf Jogezai.  Photo: Eamon Timmins/ Concern Worldwide
Country Director of Malawi Yousaf Jogezai. Photo: Eamon Timmins/ Concern Worldwide

Concern’s response

Concern is currently organising a response to supply basic essential items such as cooking utensils, mosquito nets, soap and other materials including plastic sheeting to provide immediate shelter and preserve the dignity of up to 5,000 flood-affected households.

We will also establish emergency latrines and showers in a number of camps and train people in emergency health and hygiene.  Concern and its partners will support and strengthen existing protection mechanisms in place for children who are particularly vulnerable when situations like this occur.

“Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world with very little capacity to respond to a natural disaster of this scale,” Concern Worldwide's Chief Executive Dominic MacSorley said.

“Concern’s team on the ground in Malawi are responding but support from the public and the international community is desperately needed to raise €5 million to fund this work.”

Speaking on RTE’s Drivetime yesterday, Concern Wordwide’s Country Director in Malawi Yousaf Jogezai said the death toll is expected to increase.

“There are very limited option in the southern region. Most people are taking temporary shelter in schools and churches as their home are affected by the floods,” he said.

The situation in these schools is bad, since there are limited latrines and water facilities. In some cases, there are fears that the water facilities that are there may be contaminated by flood water. This is leading to a fear of cholera and other water-borne diseases.”

Yousaf Jogezai - Concern Worldwide, Malawi Country Director

The immediate needs are food, water, latrines, kitchen utensils and mosquito nets.

You can help

We have launched an emergency appeal to help those in need in Malawi, where we have been working since 2002. Not only are people in desperate need right now, but almost all crops — which were ready to harvest — have been lost to the floods. This means that farming and independent families may not have any food for the foreseeable future.

We are helping by providing people displaced and affected by flooding with food, non-food kits and shelter.

 Please help by donating today.

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