Oxfam appeals for aid as thousands of lives are still at risk after Cyclone Idai

By Oxfam

The number of casualties and people affected from Cyclone Idai are set to rise from the two million currently estimated, Oxfam is warning. The destruction of roads, bridges and communications means that some areas are still completely cut off from receiving vital aid

Rains are still falling, water continues to rise, and search-and-rescue operations are being terribly hampered. More than a thousand people are feared dead, thousands more are missing and millions of people across Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe have been left destitute without food or basic services, according to reports.

Oxfam’s initial aim is to reach 500,000 people across the three countries, in partnership with other international and local NGO partners. An initial response is being planned around sanitation, health and hygiene to ensure people have access to clean water and food aid. Today Oxfam began appealing for funds to enable the extensive humanitarian response that will be needed.

Oxfam Country Directors in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe all speak of a sense of peoples’ desperation in the hardest-hit areas, and of widespread destruction of crops and livelihoods.

In Mozambique, 90 percent of the port city of Beira is under water and communications are cut off. “Food prices are sky-rocketing,” said Rotafina Donco, Oxfam Country Director in Mozambique. She said there are people flooded from their homes and now in transit camps who have not eaten for days. Some people were still waiting to be rescued, clinging to treetops or on mountainsides.

In Zimbabwe, where over 80 deaths have been officially recorded so far and hundreds more still missing, roads are impassable and rescue helicopters are grounded because of bad weather. Machinda Marongwe, Oxfam Zimbabwe Country Director, spoke of “seeing the pain in people’s faces. Their hope is gone. Disaster following disaster.” Some people were without any clean water. “Aid could give them some hope, hope that others are listening and wanting to help them.”

John Makina, Oxfam Malawi Country Director, said that in the camps where displaced people have congregated from the floods and their destroyed homes, “you can see how awfully they have been affected.” He said the camps are full of women during the day awaiting their husbands and sons to return for the evening with whatever food they were able to find. He said that some communities could only be reached by helicopter or boat. “Sanitation in some places is just absent, with latrines and sewage systems washed away or destroyed. People are having to defecate in the bush – this will lead to bad water-borne diseases.”

Oxfam is also conducting a rapid gender analysis to inform our response. “Women and children are the most affected when disasters like this strike. Ensuring that they are safe and protected is important considering the long distances they are travelling,” said Netsai Shambira, Oxfam’s Regional Women’s Rights and Gender Justice Coordinator.

While Cyclone Idai is one of the worst tropical cyclones on record to affect this region, Oxfam warns extreme weather like this will likely continue.

“Cyclone Idai is emblematic of our changing climate. Devastating storms like this will likely continue to disproportionately affect the poorest among us who have done the least to contribute to the problem. It’s essential that we help strengthen local capacities and resiliency to deal with an increasingly dangerous climate system,” said Carlos Mejia, Oxfam America Director of Humanitarian Programs and Policy.

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