A tropical cyclone that destroyed parts of southern Africa is being called one of the deadliest natural disasters to hit the region in decades. Tens of thousands of people have been left displaced and awaiting rescue after Cyclone Idai ripped through Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe last week causing catastrophic flooding, wiping out entire villages and raising concerns over the spread of malaria.
According to the Associated Press, more than 500 people have been confirmed dead, though the number is expected to rise substantially. “There is death all over,” survivor Amos Makunduwa told AP. “It is beginning to smell really bad. The whole area is like one big body of water, huge rocks and mud. There are no houses, as if no one ever stayed here.”
In Mozambique, as many as 100,000 people remain “isolated” without help, the Mozambique National Disaster Management Institute said according to the United Nations. The country’s government estimates that more than 1,000 people have died thus far.
In nearby Zimbabwe, between 8,000 and 9,600 people have been displaced and as many as 200,000 people are in desperate need of food and assistance. The situation is likely to “deteriorate even more” as the numbers increase, said Hervé Verhoosel, spokesperson for The World Food Program. The organization projects that it will cost around $121 million to feed more than a million people for the next three months.
“It is clear that the number of 600,000 will definitely go up in the coming days,” 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.”
The WFP is seeking $5 million for Zimbabwe, to provide food, air and logistical support, and $10 million for Malawi where more than 920,000 people are affected by the storm. The country has so far confirmed 577 injuries, and 56 deaths.
Cargo planes were able to deliver food that has “not yet been fully distributed” Verhoosel said. Beira, a port city in Mozambique where the cyclone made landfall, was virtually wiped out making it challenging for people to unload food that arrived at the local airport. “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,” Verhoosel explained.
The storm has affected over a million people across all three countries. The World Health Organization, and UN are working with local governments to supply aid. In addition, the WHO revealed in a news release that “health experts, medicines and medical materials and equipment are also ongoing for Malawi and Zimbabwe.”
“The displacement of large numbers of people and the flooding triggered by Cyclone Idai significantly increases the risk of malaria, typhoid and cholera,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “WHO stands with the affected people and is organizing assistance to address their urgent health needs.”
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