After the storm

Cyclone Idai hit Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe. It destroyed the city of Beira, but that was just the beginning. Aid agencies began racing to help almost 3 million people left in need of assistance, with hundreds of thousands homeless and facing an outbreak of cholera.

Cyclone Idai is possibly the worst weather-related disaster to ever hit the southern hemisphere, with 1.7 million people in the storm’s path in Mozambique, and 920,000 people affected in Malawi. The disaster has also devastated parts of neighbouring Zimbabwe, leaving hundreds of thousands of people displaced across the region.  Strong winds and widespread flooding have ripped apart roads, houses, schools and health facilities and vast swathes of agricultural land were submerged.

More than £29 million, including £4 million matched by the UK Government, has been raised in the DEC’s Cyclone Idai Appeal in two weeks to fund the emergency work of our members in the three countries. The DEC would like to say a big thank you for all donations to this appeal. Below are some of the ways they're helping.

Satellite images from before and after the cyclone show floodwaters forming a lake more than twice the size of Greater Manchester in Mozambique. Images: Nasa Earth Observatory

Satellite images from before and after the cyclone show floodwaters forming a lake more than twice the size of Greater Manchester in Mozambique. Images: Nasa Earth Observatory

Satellite images from before and after the cyclone show floodwaters forming a lake more than twice the size of Greater Manchester in Mozambique. Images: Nasa Earth Observatory

Satellite images from before and after the cyclone show floodwaters forming a lake more than twice the size of Greater Manchester in Mozambique. Images: Nasa Earth Observatory

Heavy rainfall in the region in the weeks before the cyclone hit meant flooding was particularly severe and flood waters inundated a huge area in Mozambique.

People sought refuge from the flooding by scaling trees, climbing onto roofs or scrambling to higher ground. Search and rescue crews working from helicopters and boats made dramatic rescues of people who in many cases had been stranded for days.

Rosa and her son after their ordeal

Rosa holds her son John, 2, who is suffering from high fever, in a camp in Thika, Mozambique. Image: Karel Prinsloo/DEC

Rosa holds her son John, 2, who is suffering from high fever, in a camp in Thika, Mozambique. Image: Karel Prinsloo/DEC

When Rosa’s home in Mozambique was flooded, she fled for the safety of a treetop. She spent five days there with her husband and five children, catching rain water to survive. They had nothing to eat all that time.

Eventually they were found by a helicopter rescue team, who threw the children high-energy biscuits before they were rescued by boat. The family are now separated - three of the children have gone to live with family in Beira, while the remaining two are with Rosa and her husband at the IDP camp in Thika.

“I am asking help to have a house and some clothes. I have no clothes. We need blankets and a proper place to live,” says Rosa. As well as saving lives, the second immediate focus of the relief effort is to provide temporary shelter and blankets to people like Rosa who lost their homes.

Headcam footage from a South African search and rescue team at work in Mozambique gives some idea of the extent of the flooding. Credit: IPSS Medical Rescue / Rescue South Africa

Headcam footage from a South African search and rescue team at work in Mozambique gives some idea of the extent of the flooding. Credit: IPSS Medical Rescue / Rescue South Africa

Malawi and Zimbabwe also saw extreme rainfall and flooding.

"It was raining heavily, especially on Friday night," says Jessica, who lives in rural Zimbabwe. "I could hear some noise outside so I tried to open the window but couldn’t quite see what was happening so I tried opening the door... eventually when I did open it, the mud came rushing in and I got trapped in mud."

"From there on I’m not sure what happened," she continues. "I had four children, they were all swept away. Two were rescued, and we managed to find one yesterday, he was dead. We still haven’t found my fourth child."

Jessica recovering from her injuries

Jessica shortly after being discharged from hospital. She still feels cramps down one side of her body from the injuries she sustained. Image KB Mpofu/Christian Aid.

Jessica shortly after being discharged from hospital. She still feels cramps down one side of her body from the injuries she sustained. Image KB Mpofu/Christian Aid.

Across the three countries, more than 230,000 people have been displaced, including around 146,000 people in Mozambique sheltering in at least 155 temporary communal sites, mostly schools and churches. Here, some 100,000 houses have been totally or partially destroyed or flooded, according to government reports.

In Zimbabwe nearly 4,500 people are displaced and 16,000 households are in need of some form of shelter. More than 86,900 people are estimated to be displaced in Malawi.

Mother of six Lucia has just returned to her flooded home in Mozambique to try and begin to salvage what remains of her life.

Lucia with her daughter

Lucia with her six month old daughter outside her ruined home in Tica, Mozambique. Image: Josh Estey/CARE

Lucia with her six month old daughter outside her ruined home in Tica, Mozambique. Image: Josh Estey/CARE

"The storm started and lasted over two days," says Lucia. "On the third day it started raining at 5am. And I thought it was simple rain, but it wasn’t normal, it was torrential. So I ran with my kids to a school."

She says she has lost her crops, her clothes and the house including the utensils. "I only saved my children," she says.

Lucia is now finding it hard to find food for her family. "For me and my community I would like to receive food and shelter," she says. "The food will help us be strong so we can rebuild our houses and lives.”

Lucia prepares porridge

Lucia prepares a simple porridge for her family. "For me and my community I would like to receive food and shelter," she says. "The food will help us be strong so we can rebuild our houses and lives.” Josh Estey/CARE

Louis and Isabelle hold their baby

Louis, 23 and his wife Isabelle, 20 hold their four-month old baby boy Cefas in Beira, Mozambique. Image: Corrie Butler/British Red Cross

Lucia prepares porridge

Lucia prepares a simple porridge for her family. "For me and my community I would like to receive food and shelter," she says. "The food will help us be strong so we can rebuild our houses and lives.” Josh Estey/CARE

Louis and Isabelle hold their baby

Louis, 23 and his wife Isabelle, 20 hold their four-month old baby boy Cefas in Beira, Mozambique. Image: Corrie Butler/British Red Cross

Louis, 23 and his wife Isabelle, 20, and baby Cefas, 4 months, were luckier. They weathered the cyclone when it hit Beira but their home and belongings were damaged. "The most valuable thing I lost was my books," says Louis. To Louis, a local university student, this was devastating.

But they have other matters to concern them. Isabelle's family was in Buzi and she has not heard from the family since the cyclone hit. They've come to the port where volunteers have been registering people being rescued from the same area and hope to find their family soon.

"We are very worried - Isabelle is very worried," says Louis. "But we are grateful that we are safe. We are alive and that's what is important."

Evacuees from Buzi arrive on a beach near Beira Port. Image: Denis Onyodi/Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre

Evacuees from Buzi arrive on a beach near Beira Port. Image: Denis Onyodi/Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre

Many of the displaced people have benefitted from temporary accommodation centres, often located in schools.  Here in Beira, more than 200 families are staying in one small school.

Health risks are a major concern where people are living in crowded areas with lack of hygiene and sanitation.

Sonia Foustino, 40, a Red Cross volunteer for 14 years, comes to this centre for displaced families every day, to ensure they have access to clean water, sharing critical health, sanitation and hygiene messages, and providing psychosocial support.

Sonia joined the women in celebration when a number of katenges [sarongs] were distributed to women in the centre who had lost their clothes in the cyclone. Sonia joined the women in celebration. "It's in my heart - to do this job, to help people," she said with her hand over her heart and a beaming smile.

Sonia leading a celebration

"It's in my heart - to do this job, to help people," says Sonia, centre. In Beira, a school has been transformed into a displacement centre Image: Corrie Butler/British Red Cross

"It's in my heart - to do this job, to help people," says Sonia, right. In Beira, a school has been transformed into a displacement centre Image: Corrie Butler/British Red Cross

Clothes and shelter are important, but ensuring a food supply for hungry and often weak people is another priority for DEC members.

The cyclone came at the worst possible time for food production in the region. March is the maize harvest season but many crops have been wiped out. Livestock has also been lost.

This disaster also comes on top of a series of cyclic droughts which means that people have not been able to rely on steady harvests and healthy livestock as a source of both food and income for their family. Many people were already very vulnerable when the disaster struck and there is a very real threat of hunger in the near future.

A mother and her child wait to receive some food at a school before being moved to a new camp near Beira in Mozambique coordinated by the Red Cross. Image: Karel Prinsloo/DEC

Mozambique’s destroyed port city of Beira is a supply route for goods to the region. Stalls in the Maquinino informal market - Beira’s largest - have all been destroyed, impacting the availability of essential products. A box of tomatoes that cost about £6 before the cyclone struck now costs between £24 and £30, according to the local community.

The distinctive  blue bowls are a sign that food aid is getting through to the people who need it. Here, children and families have received food at a school during a distribution by the Red Cross before being moved to a new camp coordinated by the agency.

A mother carries her child

A mother and her child wait to receive some food at a school before being moved to a new camp near Beira in Mozambique coordinated by the Red Cross. Image: Karel Prinsloo/DEC

A mother and her child wait to receive some food at a school before being moved to a new camp near Beira in Mozambique coordinated by the Red Cross. Image: Karel Prinsloo/DEC

Displaced people receive hot food in a school in Beira, Mozambique. Image: Karel Prinsloo/DEC

Displaced people receive hot food in a school in Beira, Mozambique. Image: Karel Prinsloo/DEC

Displaced people receive hot food in a school in Beira, Mozambique. Image: Karel Prinsloo/DEC

Displaced people receive hot food in a school in Beira, Mozambique. Image: Karel Prinsloo/DEC

As well as food, clean water is a necessity for survival. Flood waters are now receding, but cyclone survivors are facing a second emergency threat - water-borne disease.

Stagnant water, overcrowded conditions in communal shelters, damaged water and sanitation systems, and limited access to clean water mean that there is a high risk of cholera and malaria outbreaks. In Mozambique, there are reports of 10 families sharing single tents, creating cramped conditions which can increase the risk. Oxfam says that 110,000 people in the country are particularly at risk, especially around the port city of Beira.

So far 1,052 cholera cases have been reported in the country, and the risk is increasing fast, with cases doubling on a daily basis. There has been one confirmed death.

Projections indicate that as many as 23,000 people could become infected if action is not urgently taken.  A programme administering 900,000 oral vaccinations started this week.

There have been reports of people drinking from stagnant water in street puddles. Charmaine Consul Gonçalves, World Vision senior programme officer currently in Beira, says “Children are especially prone to infection as they play among dirty water and may not have access to water to clean their hands after going to the toilet. Children can easily die from dehydration unless treated quickly.”

In Zimbabwe, Oxfam aid workers have reported that bore holes and water systems in Chimanimani have been destroyed by floods.

A priority for the DEC’s member aid agencies is the provision of clean water, toilets and hand-washing facilities to prevent the spread of water-borne diseases.

Oxfam water engineers set up a tap stand at a camp near Beira. Credit: Ivo Belohoubek/DEC

Oxfam water engineers set up a tap stand at a camp near Beira. Credit: Ivo Belohoubek/DEC

Oxfam is trucking clean water to areas affected by the cyclone, and has sent an additional 38 tonnes of equipment worth £250,000 on a plane chartered directly to Beira from the UK, which will include over 1,000 latrine slabs to build emergency toilets, more than 20 water bladder tanks, 10,000 jerry buckets, three desludging pumps with generators, and over 100 tap stands.

A British Red Cross team has also arrived in Beira, Mozambique with equipment to provide sanitation for 20,000 people. The Red Cross field hospital recently set up in Beira has treatment ready for cholera and acute watery diarrhoea.

Mozambique Red Cross volunteers, who are trained in cholera management and have experience from previous outbreaks, are distributing supplies of household water treatment, such as water purification tablets, buckets with lids and filtering cloths, one of the most effective ways to prevent cholera.

Elsewhere in Mozambique, the scale of the relief operation is apparent.

CARE set up a distribution point co-ordinated with Oxfam and Save the Children. Credit: Josh Estey/CARE

CARE set up a distribution point co-ordinated with Oxfam and Save the Children. Credit: Josh Estey/CARE

Virginia holds a nappy at the where her family is shetlering

Virginia has been sheltering at a school with her husband and children since tropical cyclone Idai destroyed their home in Beira, Mozambique. Image: Jesper Milner Henriksen/Plan International

Virginia has been sheltering at a school with her husband and children since tropical cyclone Idai destroyed their home in Beira, Mozambique. Image: Jesper Milner Henriksen/Plan International

CARE began full scale aid distribution on March 26, with women queuing to receive the relief in Nhamaibwe village, in the District of Dondo.

Fifty family tents, 150 family kits and 170,000 litre water tank and 500 hygiene kits were distributed in coordination with Save the Children and Oxfam.

In Malawi, Plan International has dispatched an emergency response team to support those affected by the floods in Mulanje district. So far, 188 affected households have received buckets, jerrycans, and soap, with the aim of reaching 2,000 households.

Virginia has been sheltering at a school with her husband and children since tropical cyclone Idai destroyed their home in Beira, Mozambique. Image: Jesper Milner Henriksen/Plan International

A specific urgent need for women and adolescent girls is dignity/hygiene kits, clean water and private latrines or bathing areas to enable them to maintain adequate hygiene, manage their periods and ensure their dignity and safety during this time.

Women like Virginia, who lost her home in Beira in the cyclone, have been forced to use nappies during their periods because they have no sanitary pads. In some instances, women say they are cutting nappies in half to share with their babies. Others are having to wash and re-use small pieces of cotton.

DEC members are distributing thousands of dignity kits, including sanitary pads, soap and buckets to help adolescent girls and young women affected by Cyclone Idai manage their periods with more dignity and comfort. Plan International, for instance, has distributed 2,000 hygiene kits in Zimbabwe; in Malawi, 135 adolescent girls who received menstrual hygiene kits with six reusable pads.

Children play in the destroyed hall at the Agostinho Neto Primary School in Beira, Mozambique Credit: Karel Prinsloo/DEC

Children clean up the destroyed hall at the Agostinho Neto Primary School in Beira, Mozambique Image: Karel Prinsloo/DEC

Children play in the destroyed hall at the Agostinho Neto Primary School in Beira, Mozambique Credit: Karel Prinsloo/DEC

Children clean up the destroyed hall at the Agostinho Neto Primary School in Beira, Mozambique Image: Karel Prinsloo/DEC

Quite apart from missing out on lessons, going to school is an important activity that binds a community together and symbolises that community getting back to normal in uncertain times.

Save the Children is setting up temporary learning spaces in displaced people’s camps to continue children’s education, and restore that normality.  

Children may be vulnerable but older people have their own challenges during natural disasters. They may be weak, ill with existing diseases, immobile and have sight issues, all which make it difficult to access help and relief.   

Thai sits outside her tent in a camp for displaced people where she is receiving help from Age International. Image: Karel Prinsloo/Age International

In Cyclone Idai, many older people may have been unable to flee to safety, and either left stranded or left behind by families. In the process they have lost walking sticks, medication, glasses, wheelchairs and  other aids; for them it is tough to queue for food. Carrying heavy loads, waiting in long queues and making the journey to collection points can be nigh on impossible for some older people.

Thai doesn’t know her age but she describes herself and her husband as ‘old.’ They are without family to support them. When the storm hit the house they share with their daughter fell on them, injuring their legs,  they had to be dug out by their neighbours.

They spent a week in hospital and now face destitution as their daughter has lost her livelihood as a farmer. “My daughter… can no longer support me.  She cannot work. She used to farm. Now, she has nowhere to farm. Everything is water.” 

Thai says she hopes the government will help. "I can’t even imagine how I will survive tomorrow. I don’t have any capacity to rebuild… to find money to rebuild. I don’t know where to get food, or accommodation." She’s currently staying in a camp for displaced people in Nhamathanda. She repeats, "Please, help us. Anyone who can help rebuild my house. Help with food. Help with clothes."

DEC member Age International is providing specialist aid for older people in the wake of the cyclone.

Thai sits outside her tent in a camp for displaced people where she is receiving help from Age International. Image: Karel Prinsloo/Age International

Thai sits outside her tent in a camp for displaced people where she is receiving help from Age International. Image: Karel Prinsloo/Age International

Thai in the displaced persons camp in Nhamathanda, Mozambique after escaping the flooding. Image: Karel Prinsloo/Age International

Malita, a farmer, stands in a ruined field

Malita, 25, inspects what’s left of her field after extensive flooding in southern Malawi. Image: Gavin Douglas/Concern Worldwide

Thai in the displaced persons camp in Nhamathanda, Mozambique after escaping the flooding. Image: Karel Prinsloo/Age International

Malita, 25, inspects what’s left of her field after extensive flooding in southern Malawi. Image: Gavin Douglas/Concern Worldwide

Cyclone Idai struck just before the harvest, and many crops were destroyed. Image: Gavin Douglas/Concern Worldwide

Cyclone Idai struck just before the harvest, and many crops were destroyed. Image: Gavin Douglas/Concern Worldwide

Like Thai’s daughter, Malita also relies on farming for her livelihood. This week she was inspecting her field after the extensive flooding. To her devastation, her entire crop of maize has been ruined one month before harvest.

This disaster comes on top of a series of cyclic droughts which means that farmers have not been able to rely on steady harvests and healthy livestock as a source of both food and income for their family. Many people were already very vulnerable when the disaster struck and there is a very real threat of hunger in the near future.

Cyclone Idai struck just before the harvest, and many crops were destroyed. Image: Gavin Douglas/Concern Worldwide

The Cyclone Idai Appeal will remain open for six months.

This is a disaster on a huge scale and it will take a long time for communities to recover. Please give what you can to help people like Malita get back on their feet by donating via our website.

You can also find the Cyclone Idai Appeal fundraising pack here.

With thanks to Ivo Belohoubek, Josh Estey, Denis Onyodi, Karel Prinsloo, Arete Stories, IPSS Medical Rescue, Rescue South Africa and the DEC's 14 member charities.