Cyclone Idai leaves trail of death, destruction and homelessness in southern Africa

Oxfam will be responding with water, sanitation services, food and other essential aid to people affected by Cyclone Idai that hit Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe on March 14-15.

Scores of people have been killed, several hundred more are still missing and almost a million have been left destitute and in need of aid and basic services.

Winds of up to 140km/h destroyed farmlands and damaged houses, some beyond repair. Damage is likely to run into millions of dollars.

The Presidents of Zimbabwe and Mozambique have both declared a national disaster.

Oxfam teams are assessing the needs of people worst affected in all three countries.

Oxfam Zimbabwe Humanitarian Manager in Mozambique Lyn Chinembiri said they are reporting extensive damage to homes, crops, roads and bridges, and communications. Some areas have been rendered impassable with roads and bridges and phone lines having been washed away.

“We are still gathering data from the field. It’s clear that three provinces of Zambezia, Sofala and Tete have been hit particularly hard. Information is still trickling in. It is likely that Oxfam will respond in Zambezia and Beira at least.”

Oxfam has activated its new “Emergency Response Team” of water and sanitation, food and livelihood experts to assess the chaos. They too have been hampered by damaged roads, communications black outs and continuing bad weather.

In Malawi, the United Nations estimates that 739,000 people have been affected, exacerbated by floods caused that hit the country two weeks ago. Oxfam teams are assessing people’s needs in districts that were hit hard by floods.

Oxfam with support from UNICEF in Mozambique, and utilising its emergency funding in Malawi, is initially planning a three month-long response in water, sanitation and hygiene work, including providing purifying tablets, buckets and hygiene kits as well food aid to vulnerable households.

In Mozambique, Oxfam is part of the COCASA consortium (with CARE, SCF and Concern) that is being led by the General Director of the National Institute of Disaster Management. COCASA is focusing on emergency shelter, water and sanitation services and other provisions and public service support.

Oxfam’s southern Africa Regional Director Nellie Nyangwa said, “We regret the loss of life, and the first few days were difficult days as official agencies focused on saving lives and trying to assess the impact of the floods in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe.

“We expect that there will be over a million people affected in the region. We are already beginning to focus on work that will help recover people’s livelihoods, prevent water borne diseases, and protect displaced people, with a key focus on women and children,” she said.

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