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Oxfam distributes emergency aid and hygiene kits to Cyclone Idai survivors in Malawi and Mozambique

Flood survivor wading in water in Beira
Survivors of Cyclone Idai face shortages of clean water and food and are at risk of waterborne diseases due to contaminated flood water. Sergio Zimba / Oxfam

“People have been left with nothing. They need help now and in the months and years ahead to rebuild their communities in a way, which equips them for a world where climate change means extreme weather events such as Idai will happen more often,” said John Makina, Oxfam Malawi Country Director.

This week, Oxfam began distributing emergency supplies to survivors of Cyclone Idai in one of the worst hit areas in the southern tip of Malawi , and to camps in Buzi near the city of Beira in Mozambique.

In Mozambique, 470 family kits were distributed through Oxfam’s partner organization, AJOAGO, to displacement camps in Estaquinha and Guara Guara in the district of Buzi Each family kit includes two blankets, a bucket for water, two mosquito nets, one jerry can, eight spoons, two cloth wrappers and water purification tablets. The area is currently accessible only by boat or helicopter and is still cut off from functioning communication systems.

In Malawi, 1,000 families in Bangula camp in Nsanje District received hygiene kits with essential items like buckets, soap, laundry soap and sanitary pads. Many of the people living in the camp traveled in canoes across the flood waters to reach safety.

Bangula camp is currently home to 5,000 displaced children, women, and men from both Malawi and Mozambique, who have been paying to use a nearby borehole for drinking water. With only a few toilets and limited access to clean water, people in the camp are particularly vulnerable to diseases such as acute diarrhea and cholera.

“Hygiene conditions here in the camp are not very good and I do fear for my baby, but I have no choice. I lost all my household items when my house collapsed in the floods. I’ll be using one bucket for bathing my baby and another for storing drinking water,” said Zainabu Elasoni, a resident of Bangula camp.

Zainabu Elasoni and her baby in Bangula Camp in Nsanje. Daud Kayisi/Oxfam

Cyclone Idai has devastated the lives of more than 2.6 million people across southern Africa including about 700,000 people in Malawi where heavy rains have caused massive flooding across the southern part of the country destroying people’s houses and washing away their livestock and crops.

“We are seeing huge sanitation needs at the camp and the few toilets that have been dug at the camp are very shallow and some are already full because the area is still waterlogged,” says Joseph Moyo, an Oxfam humanitarian worker. “With cholera cases already being reported in Mozambique, we are prioritizing the distribution of hygiene kits to the survivors at the camp as an important intervention to prevent such an outbreak here.”

“The conditions and safety of women here at the camp are our paramount concern. Women and girls are more vulnerable here because of the distress this crisis has caused, and more needs to be done to heighten personal security and the protection of women and other vulnerable groups,” says Tariro Mavingo, an Oxfam humanitarian worker. “In the coming days, we will be holding sensitization meetings with the women and girls, men and community members and their leaders on safeguarding issues. We also need more tents to ensure women and girls can have their living areas separated from the men.”

Oxfam has initial plans to reach up to half a million people in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe including via its partnerships with local and other international organizations. Over the next three months Oxfam and partners will truck in clean water and distribute water treatment and hygiene kits that contain items such as buckets, soaps, jerry cans, and menstrual hygiene kits.

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