Cyclones Idai and Cyclone Kenneth – counting the cost of repair

In March 2019 FOS reported on the devastation of Cyclone Idai that hit Mozambique and other parts of Southern Africa – Malawi and Zimbabwe.  The cyclone made landfall in Mozambique on March 14 and 15 near Beira City, Sofala Province, in central Mozambique. It brought torrential rains and winds to Sofala, Zambezia, Manica and Inhambane provinces.

Initially reports put the number of causalities at 300.  According to latest reports, the number of people killed  has since risen to more than a 1000 across the three countries since the initial report, 600 people are said to have died in Mozambique alone, 257 are reported missing.  Fourteen cholera cases have been confirmed in northern Mozambique have been reported since. Costs of repairing the country were estimated at over $ 1million dollars, an astronomical amount for an already impoverished country.

As Mozambique was still counting costs of repairing the country yet another cyclone, Cyclone Kenneth landed in just six weeks. Cyclone Kenneth brought torrential rains to northern Mozambique, causing flash floods, burst rivers, potential landslides, putting another 160,000 people at risk.   At least 9 people were reportedly killed.

The world’s sixth poorest country faces the second storm with an extra $118 million of debt, after the International Monetary Fund (IMF) granted an interest-free loan for rebuilding.  The European Union has already sent a 7 million euro support to Mozambique.

mozambique cycloon

FOS’s partners in Mozambique,  Sindicato Nacional dos Trabalhadores Agropecuários e Florestais (National Trade Union of Agricultural and Forest Workers­) – SINTAF who have been on the ground since the first cyclone landed shared their views regarding the disasters; ‘there has been a coordinated response from government through entities such as the institute for disaster management as well as stakeholders and partners such as local and international NGOs and multilateral institutions in supporting relief efforts following the cyclones[1].

According to SINTAF, efforts such as these have gone a long way in facilitating the provision of humanitarian assistance to affected communities, including psycho-social support, healthcare, water and sanitation as well as food assistance. For SINTAF, this is very important because a lot of farmworkers and farming communities have lost entire harvests, assets and loved ones, and are now faced with food insecurity. An additional challenge has been that of water-borne diseases such as cholera and typhoid, but also malaria and some reported cases of measles. Various campaigns have been initiated to try and contain these diseases.

Human costs of climate change and environmental degradation

According to Rosalina Chauke – SANTAF Organiser (Manica Province), while relief efforts have been overwhelming, there have been some challenges. These include reports of people affected by the cyclone being further victimised by officials who demand money and sexual favours in exchange for aid. These abuses have been widely condemned by the aid community both at home and abroad.

Every year, over 500.000 people are affected by floods, cyclones and drought. Mozambique has recently been identified as the country with the second highest expected climate change impacts in the world. Cholera epidemics are expected to increase. Over 10 million Mozambicans live in absolute poverty and food security is under threat. This affects women and vulnerable groups disproportionally[2].

In Zimbabwe FOS’ partners, the General and Agriculture and Plantation Workers Union of Zimbabwe (GAPWUZ) and the Community Working Group on Health (CWGH) have also been working quite closely in the affected areas of Manicaland province, namely Chimanimani.  While Cyclone Kenneth was not experienced in Zimbabwe, the effects of Cyclone Idai were quite devastating.   Austin Muswere, the acting deputy secretary general of GAPWUZ echoed the need for psychosocial support.  ‘In some communities some missing people cannot still be accounted for.  Their relatives are hurting, they need closure. Communities need closure.’ Over and above material support there is need for psychosocial support’.

Community Working Group on Health (CWGH) getting ready for a visit to Chimanimani to visit communities affected by Cyclone Idai.

Author: Dawu Sehlaphi Sibanda

[1] Andre Mandlate –  SANTIF Secretary General, Rosalina Chauke – Organiser (Manica Province) and Cecilia Chongo – FOS Programme Manager provided input on the Mozambican situation