UNHCR rushing staff, supplies to assist people affected by Cyclone Idai (25.03.2019)

UNHCR efforts demonstrate solidarity with the people of the region who have for decades generously hosted refugees and shared their limited resources with them.

PRETORIA, South Africa, March 25, 2019 – UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is working with governments and humanitarian partners in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi to provide relief to the survivors of the Tropical Cyclone Idai which struck the east coast of southern Africa on 14 and 15 March.

We are sending our emergency response teams – making available our expertise and staff, and aid supplies to assist those affected by the disaster without recent precedent in the region.

UNHCR efforts demonstrate solidarity with the people of the region who have for decades generously hosted refugees and shared their limited resources with them.

Our teams will support the on-going efforts to respond to the urgent life-saving needs of the affected people, including refugees.

We are mobilizing emergency shelter and core relief items from our global stockpiles to assist some 30,000 people in dire need, including affected refugees in Zimbabwe and their host communities, and the local population displaced by the cyclone.

The affected population is in dire need of basic relief supplies, food, health services and shelter. Our relief items will include family tents, shelter plastic tarpaulins, sleeping mats, cooking sets and utensils, Jerry cans, buckets, mosquito nets, solar lamps and soap.

In Mozambique, the most affected country, the government has declared a national emergency as the death toll from the effects of the Cyclone climbs above the reported 242 and is expected to exceed 1,000. The country is currently home to some 25,000 refugees – who have fortunately not been directly affected.

In Zimbabwe, the government has declared a state of disaster, and 104 people are reported to have died as a result of the cyclone. Two districts are reported to have been severely affected, including Chipinge District, host to Tongogara refugee camp. The camp currently has some 13,000 refugees, many of whom have suffered injuries, but no fatalities.

UNHCR is conducting rapid assessments in Tongogara camp to determine the extent of the damage, however, based on available information 2,000 refugee houses, mainly built using mud bricks, were completely or partially damaged. Over 600 latrines have collapsed, and borehole water is feared to be contaminated due to flood waters. There is a real danger of an outbreak of waterborne diseases.

The refugee host communities have also been affected, and it is estimated that 100,000, Zimbabwean residents of Chipinge District, including some 20,000 who live near the refugee camp, are in immediate need of life-saving humanitarian assistance.

In Malawi, the government has also declared a state of national disaster, and 84 people are reported to have died. At least 15 districts and two cities have been impacted, with approximately 840,000 people affected nationally by the floods.

About 94,000 people are displaced and sheltering in makeshift sites for internally displaced people. Refugee locations in Malawi were not directly affected.

More than 4,400 Mozambican nationals – including women and children, have been forced to seek safety from the Cyclone’s devastation in Nsanje district, in Malawi. We plan to assist both Mozambican new arrivals and their Malawian hosts.

UNHCR has decades-long experience speedily responding to refugee humanitarian emergencies around the world.

Statement by the SADC Chairperson, His Excellency Dr. Hage g. Geingob, on the effects of cyclone Idai in the SADC region (24.03.2019)

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) notes with great sadness the devastation caused by the recent tropical Cyclone Idai in the SADC region, in particular in the Republics of Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. The economic cost and social impact of the Cyclone to the affected countries, and indeed the entire region, is immeasurable.

The Cyclone, which killed hundreds of people and displaced thousands others, left a trail of destruction to land and infrastructure affecting accessibility and provision of health care and welfare to the affected communities. SADC expresses heartfelt condolences to the people and Governments of the three countries, and indeed to the bereaved families.

SADC appreciates the overwhelming support extended to the communities by some Member States, cooperating partners, and most importantly by citizens of the three countries who combined efforts to assist their fellow nationals. SADC stands in solidarity with the three countries as they recover from the tragedy. In this regard, SADC has contributed a total of US$500,000 as follows; US$200,000 to Mozambique; US$150,000 to Malawi; and US$150,000 to Zimbabwe. We call upon all our partners, within and beyond the region, to continue supporting the rescue operations, and in providing the needed humanitarian assistance.

In view of the increased occurrence of climate-related catastrophes, such as cyclones, floods and droughts, around the world and especially in the SADC region, SADC reiterates its call for joint global efforts to reduce global warming and the impacts of climate change and variability, while stepping up efforts to enhance adaptive capacities of developing countries in line with the spirit of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (2015-2030) and Article 8(4) of the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

I call upon SADC Member States to re-double their efforts to strengthen disaster risk management capacities, as emphasized in the SADC Disaster Preparedness and Response Strategy adopted in 2016, and to fully operationalise the necessary collaborative mechanisms to ensure rapid joint and concerted responses to disasters.

Dr. Hage G. Geingob

President of the Republic of Namibia, and Chairperson of SADC

21 March 2019

Idai disaster: Stranded victims still need rescue from heavy rains as UN scales up response (21.03.2019)

The World Food Programme (WFP) said that people are still stranded on rooftops after the storm began its sweep through Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe six days ago.

NEW YORK, United States of America, March 21, 2019 – Dire conditions persist in vast areas of southern Africa affected by Cyclone Idai as heavy rain continues to cause “massive destruction”, the UN said on Thursday, while aid teams scale up efforts to reach those most in need.

Warning that the situation is likely to deteriorate, the World Food Programme (WFP) said that people are still stranded on rooftops after the storm began its sweep through Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe six days ago.

In Mozambique alone, the agency is seeking more than $121 million to help 1.7 million people affected through the next three months, WFP spokesperson Hervé Verhoosel said, after the Government declared a state of national emergency.

Sofala and Manica provinces were worst-hit, and extensive damage has been caused to major roads and bridges which are now impassable.

Power networks have also been severed and are unlikely to be restored for several weeks, while thousands have lost their homes, Mr. Verhoosel told journalists in Geneva, noting that WFP drones are being used to help locate stranded populations.

Thousands isolated, entire villages ‘wiped out’

According to Mozambique’s National Disaster Management Institute (INGC), more than 100,000 people are still “isolated” and without assistance in Chimoio, Dombe and other locations in Manica province.

The situation “is likely to deteriorate even more and the numbers of people affected is expected to increase as it is raining there as we speak”, Mr. Verhoosel added.

To date, WFP has provided food assistance to more than 20,000 people in Sofala, Manica, Tete and Zambezia; it aims to reach 600,000 people in the next four weeks.

But with aerial assessments over Mozambique’s Buzi valley showing “entire villages wiped out”, Mr. Verhoosel stressed that needs are likely to far outstrip initial estimates.

“It is clear that the number of 600,000 will definitely go up in the coming days,” Mr. Verhoosel said. “That has of course (an) implication on cost. If we help 600,000 people for three months, that is a cost of $42 million. If we need to help up to 1.7 million people for three months, that will be a cost of $121.5 million. Obviously, we don’t have that money today.”

Zimbabwe’s Chimanimani district hardest-hit

In Zimbabwe, 200,000 people urgently need food assistance in the coming three months, according to WFP.

Conditions in the hardest-hit district, Chimanimani, are severe, Mr Verhoosel explained, with 90 per cent of property significantly damaged.

Chimanimani is located in Manicaland province in eastern Zimbabwe, where heavy rains in both Manicaland and neighbouring Masvingo province to the south “continue to cause massive destruction”, according to WFP.

To respond to urgent needs, the agency is seeking more than $5 million to provide food, air and logistical support for the flood response.

More than $10 million required for Malawi flood response

In Malawi, where Cyclone Idai had a limited impact, 920,000 have been affected by flooding that began on 5 March, according to the Government.

People are beginning to return home and WFP has started food distributions to the worst-hit districts of Nsanje, Phalombe, Chikwawa and Zomba.

In the next two months, the agency plans to reach 650,000 people, an operation that will cost $10.3 million.

Underscoring the huge logistical challenges of the aid operation, Mr. Verhoosel explained that a WFP airplane reached the Mozambican port of Beira soon after the disaster happened, in extremely difficult conditions.

Aid has to be unloaded by hand, ‘box by box’

“That was probably the first cargo (plane) to land,” he said. “The food from that cargo is not yet fully distributed. The problem that we have is more the access…because most of the people are on rooftops or in a place that we cannot access by road.”

Mr. Verhoosel also highlighted ongoing challenges in Beira, where 90 per cent of the port city was damaged by Idai.

“In the port for the moment, you have no infrastructure,” he said, adding that the situation was the same at the airport, where people had to unload food by hand, “box by box”.

“In Beira, the level of water is not the same as in the countryside… inland, the problem is that you have basically water all around,” Mr Verhoosel said.

UNFPA protecting health and well-being of women

The UN Population Fund (UNFPA), is providing humanitarian assistance to Mozambique in the aftermath of Idai, to protect the health and well-being of women, through services for sexual and reproductive health and prevention of and response to gender-based violence (GBV).

Given the urgent needs, UNFPA said it was providing the following relief:

  • Supporting 19 mobile clinics in hard-to-reach areas.
  • Providing 2,000 dignity kits to the most vulnerable women and girls.
  • Providing 19 tents for mobile SRH services.
  • Providing 240 emergency reproductive kits to cover the needs of more than 300,000 affected people, including delivery kits for communities and hospitals, post-rape treatment kits, and kits for prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted infections.
  • Supporting GBV case management and psychosocial services for GBV survivors.