By Gabriel-Eddie Njoroge
As Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi continue to recover from the damage and destruction caused by Cyclone Idai, the world has been called on to support the three countries to address the challenges, risks and impacts of extreme weather events and climate change on the most vulnerable.
Ursula Mueller, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator said at the end of a week-long mission to three countries to see first-hand the humanitarian response to Tropical Cyclone Idai.
The Cyclone Idai weather system hit the region three months ago, leaving a path of destruction and more than three million people in need of humanitarian assistance.
“While the impact of Cyclone Idai was different in the three countries, this disaster gives us a clear picture of how the effects of climate change are increasing the humanitarian needs of people who are already extremely vulnerable,” said Mueller. “The climate crisis is hurting most those who have done the least to create it.”
In Mozambique, which was affected by two consecutive cyclones, Idai and Kenneth, the deputy humanitarian chief visited Beira, the port city which took the brunt of Idai, and travelled to Dondo, where she met with people who have been resettled after they lost everything.
“I am inspired by the incredible resilience of the Mozambican people, who are already rebuilding their lives,” she said. “However, I am deeply concerned for the months ahead, as food insecurity is expected to rise due to the extensive damage to crops and livelihoods. We must ensure that no one is left behind, and that displaced people are resettled in a way that is safe, dignified, voluntary, informed and durable.”
Mueller welcomed the initial outpouring of support and solidarity with Mozambique, but urged the international community to do more. The Humanitarian Response Plan for Mozambique, which calls for US$440 million including the response to Cyclone Idai and Kenneth and the drought in the south, is only 34 per cent funded.
In Zimbabwe, the deputy humanitarian chief visited Chimanimani, one of the locations hardest-hit by Idai, which was already facing a food insecurity crisis before the weather system arrived.
“I talked to people who were displaced, most of them women. They told me of how they were already struggling before the storm and, while they are striving to recover, they need support to be more resilient and to improve their lives”, she said.
Mueller stressed during her meetings with the government, including President Emmerson Mnangagwa and various ministers, the critical importance of preventing a further deterioration in the situation, as the humanitarian needs across Zimbabwe escalate as a consequence of the pre-existing drought and economic situation. The Zimbabwe Flash Appeal—which covers the drought, economic crisis and Cyclone Idai— is just over 26 per cent funded, with $75 million received out of $294 million required.
In Malawi, the last country visited during the mission, the Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator visited Chikwawa District, which was impacted by the massive floods caused by the Cyclone Idai weather system in early March.
“With the response transitioning from relief to recovery, and a good harvest expected, it is critical that the Government and development partners take this opportunity to tackle the longer-term challenges which cause recurrent humanitarian crises in Malawi. It is also critical to invest in resilience, both of the communities and the national systems,” she said.
International partners continue to trickle down to the three countries to assess the damages caused. They also wish to see what they can do to assist in the recovery process and also retrieve lessons for reference in how to protect themselves in the future from these natural disasters.