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Cyclone Idai

While cyclones in developed cities merely disrupt public services and business temporarily, it is often only the beginning of a long road to recovery for those in developing countries. In mid-March 2019, Mozambique was devastated by Cyclone Idai, which claimed the lives of over 1,000, and damaged or decimated the homes of hundreds of thousands. Despite floodwaters receding and the spread of cholera slowing down, people still have a long way to go to rebuild their communities and livelihoods. (Photo: Sergio Zimba / Oxfam)

 

Updated on 16 March 2020

Oxfam provided support for over 78 million people across Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe in the aftermath of the cyclones. However, over 100,000 people in Mozambique and Zimbabwe are still living in damaged homes or makeshift shelters.

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The Situation

Cyclone Idai map

On 14-15 March 2019, Cyclone Idai slammed into Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe, devastating the lives of about 3 million people across the three countries and claiming the lives of over 1,300. Barely six weeks on, Cyclone Kenneth – the strongest tropical cyclone to make landfall in Mozambique in modern history – tore through northern Mozambique, affecting hundreds of thousands of people and killing at least 40.

The cyclone wiped out entire villages, destroyed crops and damaged roads and isolated communities. Over 6,000 cases of cholera were reported; and countless people in these three impoverished southern African countries have been left destitute without food or basic services. The Presidents of Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe have all declared this a national disaster.

Fatuma and her son survived the cyclones, but her house was severely damaged. She still feels frightened when she thinks about what happened: ‘When the winds started, everyone was looking for a tree to hold on to so that you’re not blown away. When the rain hit your face, it was like being hit by a stone. I grabbed my kid’s bag that had a sweater and some clothes because I didn’t want them to be cold.’ (Photo: Oxfam)
 
Fatuma and her son survived the cyclones, but her house was severely damaged. She still feels frightened when she thinks about what happened: ‘When the winds started, everyone was looking for a tree to hold on to so that you’re not blown away. When the rain hit your face, it was like being hit by a stone. I grabbed my kid’s bag that had a sweater and some clothes because I didn’t want them to be cold.’ (Photo: Oxfam)
Every family at the evacuation centre has their own story of escape. Here, Maria, 31, and her six children with their only belongings are sheltering from the rain by the side of the road. Just 24 hours before this photo was taken, the rain came and the river banks burst causing their home to flood. Fearing another cyclone was coming, they gathered all their life belongings and left for higher ground. (Photo: Elena Heatherwick / Oxfam)
 
Every family at the evacuation centre has their own story of escape. Here, Maria, 31, and her six children with their only belongings are sheltering from the rain by the side of the road. Just 24 hours before this photo was taken, the rain came and the river banks burst causing their home to flood. Fearing another cyclone was coming, they gathered all their life belongings and left for higher ground. (Photo: Elena Heatherwick / Oxfam)
Survivors of Cyclone Idai in Beira, Mozambique, faced water and electricity shortages and were at risk of waterbourne diseases carried in contaminated flood water. (Photo: Sergio Zimba / Oxfam)
 
Survivors of Cyclone Idai in Beira, Mozambique, faced water and electricity shortages and were at risk of waterbourne diseases carried in contaminated flood water. (Photo: Sergio Zimba / Oxfam)

 

Oxfam's Immediate Response

After the cyclones struck, Oxfam’s humanitarian team travelled to the hardest-hit areas swiftly to save lives and assess the damage. Through our immediate response, we:

  • Provided safe drinking water and emergency food
  • Provided emergency shelter
  • Installed latrines and water pumps and distributed hygiene items, including water purifying tablets, buckets, soap, etc.
  • Trained volunteers to help communities understand the importance of the Cholera vaccine and how to prevent the spread of disease
Watertrucker Miosés Domingos (Wateraid) is filling the bladders that Oxfam contributed and elevated. The bladders can contain 10,000 litres of water and were refilled twice a day, which were enough to provide 2,000 families with their emergency water needs. (Photo: Micas Mondlane / Oxfam Novib)
 
Watertrucker Miosés Domingos (Wateraid) is filling the bladders that Oxfam contributed and elevated. The bladders can contain 10,000 litres of water and were refilled twice a day, which were enough to provide 2,000 families with their emergency water needs. (Photo: Micas Mondlane / Oxfam Novib)
Teresa Jone Vilanculos (right), 14, filling her bottle at the tap stand. She fled her village, Mangalaforte, together with her family when their house was washed away by Cyclone Idai. (Photo: Micas Mondlane / Oxfam Novib)
 
Teresa Jone Vilanculos (right), 14, filling her bottle at the tap stand. She fled her village, Mangalaforte, together with her family when their house was washed away by Cyclone Idai. (Photo: Micas Mondlane / Oxfam Novib)
Michelle, a public health promotion advisor, packing chlorine bottles for households in Mozambique. One drop will disinfect a jerry can of 20 litres of water. (Photo: Micas Mondlane / Oxfam Novib)
 
Michelle, a public health promotion advisor, packing chlorine bottles for households in Mozambique. One drop will disinfect a jerry can of 20 litres of water. (Photo: Micas Mondlane / Oxfam Novib)

 

The HKSAR Government’s Disaster Relief Fund (DRF) made two grants to Oxfam Hong Kong (OHK) totalling HK$11,943,000 to support its emergency response to the cyclones in Malawi and Mozambique. The grants were mainly used to purchase household kit and hygiene kit for the flood-affected families. In addition, one temporary toilet construction kit and one toilet cleaning tool kit were distributed to every five families in the targeted communities. The DRF requires that its funding be used for this specific disaster, in accordance with the funding application submitted by OHK and approved by the DRF. After the completion of OHK’s relief work, an evaluation will be carried out, and an evaluation and financial report (including an external audit report) will be submitted to the DRF within March 2020. 

Items inside the hygiene kits and household kits include soap, bucket, toothpaste and toothbrushes, rope, sanitation pads, capulana (Africa traditional clothes), plastic slippers, underpants, two solar lanterns etc. (Photo: Ko Chung Ming / Oxfam Volunteer Photographer)
 
Items inside the hygiene kits and household kits include soap, bucket, toothpaste and toothbrushes, rope, sanitation pads, capulana (Africa traditional clothes), plastic slippers, underpants, two solar lanterns etc. (Photo: Ko Chung Ming / Oxfam Volunteer Photographer)
People who live in makeshift shelter were given solar lamp. It helps them reduce the risk going to the public toilet at night. (Photo: Ko Chung Ming / Oxfam Volunteer Photographer)
 
People who live in makeshift shelter were given solar lamp. It helps them reduce the risk going to the public toilet at night. (Photo: Ko Chung Ming / Oxfam Volunteer Photographer)
Many of the water sources were contaminated by flood water. People could have clean water with the handheld household filter distributed by Oxfam. (Photo: Ko Chung Ming / Oxfam Volunteer Photographer)
 
Many of the water sources were contaminated by flood water. People could have clean water with the handheld household filter distributed by Oxfam. (Photo: Ko Chung Ming / Oxfam Volunteer Photographer)

 

Thoughts from the Frontlines

Kate Lee, Senior Officer -- Humanitarian and Disaster Risk Management

 

 

100 Days After: Life-saving journey in Mozambique

To ensure that the government funding and public donations were well spent, Kate Lee, our senior officer in Humanitarian and Disaster Risk Management, arrived in Mozambique in July 2019 to help out with rehabilitation.

Read more (Chi only)

 

1 year on

Over the last year, Oxfam provided assistance to over 78 million people across Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe in the aftermath of the cyclones.

Saving lives is the first step in a humanitarian response, followed by rehabilitation and reconstruction. Apart from distributing life-saving relief, we are also working with survivors to recover their livelihoods, prevent waterborne diseases, and protect displaced people, with a key focus on women and children. We are supporting vulnerable households in the region in a variety of ways. For instance, we are:

  • Supporting alternative cropping options for the winter months
  • Rehabilitating broken boreholes and pipelines to ensure long-term access to clean water
  • Rehabilitating communal toilets and bathrooms and conduct hygiene promotion activities to prevent waterborne diseases
  • Training community volunteers to raise awareness of gender-based violence in evacuation centres and the communities
Oxfam distributed cassava, beans and different kinds of vegetable seeds to farmers. These kinds of crops can grow within a short period of time, and will enable people to get enough food and nutrients. (Photo: Ko Chung Ming / Oxfam Volunteer Photographer)
 
Oxfam distributed cassava, beans and different kinds of vegetable seeds to farmers. These kinds of crops can grow within a short period of time, and will enable people to get enough food and nutrients. (Photo: Ko Chung Ming / Oxfam Volunteer Photographer)
Mary Gawani (left), 32, and Mary Kamanga (right), 51, collecting water at a borehole constructed by Oxfam in Gwembere Village, Phalombe District, southern Malawi. (Photo: Ko Chung Ming / Oxfam Volunteer Photographer)
 
Mary Gawani (left), 32, and Mary Kamanga (right), 51, collecting water at a borehole constructed by Oxfam in Gwembere Village, Phalombe District, southern Malawi. (Photo: Ko Chung Ming / Oxfam Volunteer Photographer)
The cyclones forced much of the economy to grind to a halt. Before Idai hit, Sonia’s (19) job was to encourage women who had just given birth to register their children and go to a postnatal follow-up session. After the cyclones, she worked a few days at a time for Oxfam as an activist explaining why good hygiene is important and how clean water prevents diseases. With the money she has earned from this job, she has opened up a small tuck shop, which she hopes will provide an income for her and her two children.
 
The cyclones forced much of the economy to grind to a halt. Before Idai hit, Sonia’s (19) job was to encourage women who had just given birth to register their children and go to a postnatal follow-up session. After the cyclones, she worked a few days at a time for Oxfam as an activist explaining why good hygiene is important and how clean water prevents diseases. With the money she has earned from this job, she has opened up a small tuck shop, which she hopes will provide an income for her and her two children.

 

Although international development organisations like Oxfam have been working hard with people who have experienced the cyclones in Southern Africa, tens of thousands of people in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi are still struggling to recover. According to Oxfam’s statistics, over 100,000 people in Mozambique and Zimbabwe are still living in destroyed or damaged homes and makeshift shelters, while critical infrastructure including roads, water supplies, and schools have yet to be repaired. Their road to recovery is blocked by an endless cycle of intensifying floods, droughts and storms, ingrained poverty and inequality, and a lack of support to help them adapt to a changing climate or to prepare for and recover from disaster. That is why we will continue to provide assistance to survivors and affected communities together with our local partners.

 

Extreme weather makes the poor even poorer

Mozambique does not really contribute to global warming, but it is at the forefront of the victims of global warming.

Secretary General, António Guterres, visiting the affected communities in Mozambique in July 2019

Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique are among the least developed countries in the world. They rank 150th, 172nd and 180th respectively in the latest Human Development Index of the UN, indicating poor development in various aspects, including economic development, infrastructure, education, healthcare, etc. While Cyclone Idai made headlines around the globe, it was just one in a cycle of increasingly frequent and severe weather events to have hit the region in recent years. The region has experienced several severe droughts and floods in the space of 10 years, causing nearly 9.7 million people across the three countries to remain in desperate need of food aid. And with every new shock, people’s capacity to withstand and recover diminishes.

However, the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities is from burning fossil fuels for electricity generation, travelling by car, ship and plane, etc.; hence, poor communities around the world are the least responsible for emissions. According to Oxfam’s report, per capita emissions of the average Mozambique citizen are over 50 times lower than the average person in the US, but repeated cyclones in Mozambique have caused US$3.2 billion worth of loss and damage – equivalent to 22 per cent of the country’s GDP or approximately 50 per cent of its national budget. Climate change hits poor people first and worst. It is a climate crisis that deepens poverty and exacerbates injustice.

Virginia (left), a farmer and a mother from Josina Machel village in Mozambique, lost everything in the cyclone. She came to Ndedja resettlement site to receive tools and seeds from Oxfam’s partner Kulima. However, the crops she planted in the aftermath of the cyclone were damaged by severe floods again in January this year. (Photo: Elena Heatherwick / Oxfam)
 
Virginia (left), a farmer and a mother from Josina Machel village in Mozambique, lost everything in the cyclone. She came to Ndedja resettlement site to receive tools and seeds from Oxfam’s partner Kulima. However, the crops she planted in the aftermath of the cyclone were damaged by severe floods again in January this year. (Photo: Elena Heatherwick / Oxfam)
Most infrastructure, from schools to community centres, are built from cheap materials that can’t withstand disasters like Cyclones Idai and Kenneth. With the lack of funds though, rebuilding and recovering from these cyclones will be a long road. (Photo: Ko Chung Ming / Oxfam)
 
Most infrastructure, from schools to community centres, are built from cheap materials that can’t withstand disasters like Cyclones Idai and Kenneth. With the lack of funds though, rebuilding and recovering from these cyclones will be a long road. (Photo: Ko Chung Ming / Oxfam)
A massive locust infestation has been spreading across Africa in recent months. Taking advantage of favourable breeding conditions, locusts have swarmed areas where farmers and herders were already reeling from climate shocks. Jorge and his wife lost everything in the cyclones, including their home, crops and most of their possessions. They replanted their fields with banana trees last year, but their crops have been destroyed by locusts. (Photo: Elena Heatherwick / Oxfam)
 
A massive locust infestation has been spreading across Africa in recent months. Taking advantage of favourable breeding conditions, locusts have swarmed areas where farmers and herders were already reeling from climate shocks. Jorge and his wife lost everything in the cyclones, including their home, crops and most of their possessions. They replanted their fields with banana trees last year, but their crops have been destroyed by locusts. (Photo: Elena Heatherwick / Oxfam)

 

Oxfam urges rich polluting countries to help poor countries recover from repeated climate shocks

A new Oxfam briefing, ‘After the Storm’, highlights that a slow and patchy international humanitarian response has hampered recovery. As of 28 February 2020, just US$193.4 million – 43 per cent – of the US$450.2 million sought by the UN to provide humanitarian assistance to communities in Zimbabwe and Mozmabique affected by Cyclones Idai and Kenneth had been secured. While the funding for recovery looks significant, it is just a fraction of the US$5.2 trillion the international community spent on subsidies for the fossil fuel industry in 2017 (which included the costs of climate damage which society has to pay for, such as healthcare costs related to air pollution and forgone income where fossil fuel income is not properly taxed) – and a long way from what is needed to ensure that poor communities in these countries to withstand increasingly frequent and severe climate shocks. As a result, Mozambique – the world’s sixth poorest country – were forced to take on additional debt with a US$118 million loan (albeit interest free) from the International Monetary Fund to begin the rebuilding process.

 

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