Mozambique Faces Possible Worst-Ever Weather Disaster in Southern Hemisphere

Rescue operations are underway even as much of Mozambique remains underwater.


Cyclone Idai

Aerial view of Tengani, Nsanje, which sits on the Malawi-Mozambique border. The region was affected by floods due to incessant rains from March 5 to March 9, 2019. The area was inundated with flooding even before Cyclone Idai made landfall earlier this week in Mozambique. (UNICEF/Juskauskas)

The president of Mozambique has already indicated that up to 1,000 people may have died due to the violent winds, storm surge and flooding from Cyclone Idai. The situation, however, is likely to get worse.

It is a race against time to rescue as many people as possible, many of whom are still clinging to roofs and trees after six days, while also delivering food, water, and health services to potentially hundreds of thousands of people who are now displaced.

Aerial assessments so far indicate that thousands are cut off by deep floodwaters that have turned the interior of Mozambique into a virtual inland sea. The cyclone destroyed roads and bridges, disabled communications, and cut power.

Fuel supplies are dwindling, clean water and food are scarce, and several health facilities are reportedly damaged or destroyed. Winds from Cyclone Idai ripped the roof off the main hospital in Beira. While the facility is partially functioning, the emergency department is non-operational and running low on medicines and supplies.

Significant logistical constraints posed by damaged infrastructure and deep floodwaters mean that many areas are only accessible by helicopter.

The World Food Programme described the situation as “a major humanitarian emergency that is getting bigger by the hour.”

While the main focus of the response right now is on search and rescue, the spread of disease is a major concern. Extensive flooding combined with a lack of sanitation and contaminated drinking water severely increases the risk of a secondary crisis caused by outbreaks of diarrheal and vector-borne diseases, as well as a host of other primary and chronic health issues that may become critical without access to medicine and health care.

In the medium to longer-term, damage to agricultural lands, crops, and livelihoods from Mozambique to Malawi will likely have a severe impact on the region.

Direct Relief is preparing an emergency shipment of emergency medicine, medical supplies and hygiene items to Zambezia Provincial Health Department to support their response.

Direct Relief is also coordinating with other groups on the ground and making available emergency medicines and medical supplies to local healthcare providers and authorities.

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