Historic humanitarian disaster unfolds in southeast Africa in the wake of Cyclone Idai


Historic humanitarian disaster unfolds in southeast Africa in the wake of Cyclone Idai

Niles Niemuth

22 March 2019

The dire social and economic conditions which prevail for millions of workers and toilers in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Madagascar have been tragically exposed by Cyclone Idai, which has left a historic humanitarian crisis in its wake across the southeast African nations.

Some 1.7 million people were in the direct path of what a spokesperson for the World Meterological Organization described as “one of the worst weather-related disasters in the Southern Hemisphere.” The United Nations has made an initial appeal for more than $40 million to provide emergency aid to more than 400,000 in Mozambique, the country hardest hit by the storm. The sum is tiny compared to the immense social needs.

As of this writing the official death toll stands at 504, with 308 recorded in Mozambique, 139 in Zimbabwe, 56 in Malawi and one in Madagascar. This figure is expected to rise substantially as contact is reestablished with more remote or totally devastated areas. Mozambique’s President Filipe Nyusi remarked after surveying damage this week that he estimated more than a thousand people had been killed in the country.

People displaced by flooding are seen at Bangula evacuation camp, in Nsanje, Malawi, March 12, 2019 [ Credit: L. Masina/VOA]

The storm made landfall in Beira, Mozambique last Friday, destroying much of the country’s fourth largest city with winds in excess of 175 kilometers per hour, knocking down homes and inundating it with rain and ocean storm surge. “Not a building was untouched. The power lines are down, pulled down by toppled trees.” The World Food Program’s Gerald Bourk told NPR about conditions in the city of more than 500,000,…

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