Cyclone Idai, a high-end category 2 tropical cyclone, swept across southern Africa last week. Proclaimed as by what the UN says could be “one of the worst weather-related disasters ever to hit the southern hemisphere,” hundreds of people have been killed and hundreds of thousands more have been affected. Areas of Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe have been seriously hit, creating havoc and destroying several cities in its path.
The port city of Beira in Mozambique was hit first on 14th March with massive rainfall and winds up to 177 km/hr (106 mph). World Food Programme (WFP) has reported that floods have washed away homes, roads, and bridges away creating a flood zone estimated to cover 3000 sq km (1200 sq miles) as well as inland oceans. The storm later moved into eastern Zimbabwe, where the Chimanimani district has suffered 90% of the damage along with the rest of the areas reporting bursting of banks and further flooding. According to the United Nations’ assessment, about 1.7 million people are in urgent need for humanitarian assistance and more than 80,000 have been displaced.
Currently, the danger level has been risen due to the warning that the cyclone is getting worse. As more floods submerge the cities, water levels are expected to rise by 8 meters, putting 350,000 people at risk, says the Disaster Emergencies Committee (DEC). Another challenge that has contributed to the death toll is an outbreak of cholera. Spread through human waste, the drinking water supply has been hit and people are finding it harder and harder to find clean and safe water. Since people are hoarding in groups, the outbreak of cholera is only further exuberated. Other waterborne diseases like typhoid and malaria also pose a risk as healthcare is difficult to set-up in the worst-hit areas. While short-term food supply is steady with all-hands-on-deck by non-profit international organizations, a long-term threat of starvation looms. Zimbabwe has lost around 75% of its crops due to the cyclone and the rest of the states are struggling similarly.
As of now the official death toll, the United Nations has confirmed 242 dead in Mozambique, with 259 lives lost in Zimbabwe, and 56 in Malawi. However, It is premature to say how many people have died while affected areas remain inaccessible. President of Zimbabwe, Emmerson Mnangagwa has declared March 23 and 24 national days of mourning and is calling on all countries to offer aid. With multiple eye-witnesses and aerial footage, the devastation is much worse than being reported- “Not a building was untouched. The power lines are down, pulled down by toppled trees. It will take months for the people of the city and the city itself to recover,” WFP’s Gerald Bourke spoke from Beira, Mozambique. Aid agencies have made desperate appeals for funding, revealing the extent of the devastation. And as that extent of the damage wreaked by Idai is revealed, state and non-governmental agencies are flocking to the affected region to help and discovering that Malawi, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe will need far more than expected.
Such a humanitarian crisis based on weather only shows how important it is to acknowledge climate changes and the move towards a deal where fewer tragedies occur. The survivors are desperate for help as many bear the brunt of having no home, no food, and no life.