International aid flows to Southern Africa after two devastating cyclones

By Jeffrey Moyo

HARARE (IDN) – All that she has now is her 12-year old daughter. Her home, and almost all her belongings were destroyed by Cyclone Idai in March. Over a month ago since the tragedy struck, 35-year old Teresa Chizimu who hails from Chikwawa district in Malawi, has sunken deeper and deeper into desperation since she had an encounter with the cyclone.

Not only Chizimu is in this crisis in the southern hemisphere, but also Mozambique’s 71-year old Aderito Abdala from the port city of Beira, is faced with a catastrophic situation, with all his four grandchildren and wife, killed by Cyclone Idai.

In Malawi, around 16,000 households were affected by the cyclone, according to the country’s national disaster report, and many like Chizimu lost their homes in the storm which left 56 people dead.

In Mozambique, the magnitude of destruction wrought by Cyclone Idai was even worse. Government there said over a thousand people could have been slayed by the storm, with 417 people having been killed by the cyclone in Mozambique, according to the country’s Land and Environment Minister Celso Correia.

As if the destruction wrought by Cyclone Idai was not enough, in April Cyclone Kenneth pounded Mozambique, exterminating dozens of people in the country’s Cabo Delgado province.

But even as the Idai disaster left indelible trail of destruction in Southern Africa, aid from organisations like the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States, poured in to help the victims of the cyclone.

The 79-nation ACP, created by the Georgetown Agreement in 1975, is focusing on sustainable development and poverty reduction in the member states, as well as their greater integration into the world’s economy.

“I wander from one relative’s home to the other with my daughter because my own home which was left for me by my late husband is now also no more after it was destroyed by Cyclone Idai,” Chizimu told IDN.

Mozambique’s old Abdala has even become an object of ridicule in his area as his suspicious community accuse him of witchcraft.

“People think I sacrificed my grandchildren and wife for the sake of fame because of the catering business I have always had. I feel so hurt, but that’s life,” Abdala told IDN.

In the wake of Cyclone Kenneth, the Mozambican government reported that at least 38 people died during the second massive cyclone to hit southern Africa in six weeks, drawing empathy from the UN.

“The Secretary-General is deeply saddened at reports of loss of lives and destruction in Mozambique and Comoros as a result of tropical cyclone Kenneth, six weeks after Cyclone Idai made landfall in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe,” said the UN Secretary-General’s Spokesman, Stephane Dujarric.

In Mozambique, Cyclone Kenneth partially or fully destroyed nearly 35,000 houses, close to 200 classrooms; and at least 14 health facilities, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

To persons like Abdala and Chizimu in Southern African countries, help from ACP has flocked nonetheless, and even Zimbabwe, not spared by the rampaging Cyclone Idai, was not forgotten in the rescue efforts by organisations such as ACP.

As initial response following Cyclone Kenneth, US$10 million has been released for Mozambique by the head of OCHA, together with US$3 million for the hard-hit Comoros Islands.

As Cyclone Kenneth pounded Mozambique, spokesperson for the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), Charlie Yaxley, said that “access to the most remote places remains difficult”, with reports that some remain “completely isolated and in need of rescue”.

Subsequently, Dujarric, the UN Spokesman recently said that Secretary-General António Guterres is appealing to the international community for additional resources, critically needed to fund the response to the twin tragedies of Idai and Kenneth cyclones in the immediate, medium- and longer-term.

Meanwhile, soon after Cyclone Idai struck, ACP governments declared a state of disaster in the affected areas and launched an urgent appeal to their ACP family, as well as bilateral and multilateral partners for assistance in rescue and relief efforts and emergency financial assistance, including emergency supplies of tents for shelter, food supplies, medicines, chlorine to treat water, clothing, beddings, mosquito nets, and relief necessities, especially for women and children.

As such, the ACP Secretariat created a bank account for donations as part of the emergency procedures instituted to help the Cyclone Idai victims.

With the ACP help, consequently, voluntary technical, logistical and financial donations to address the immediate needs of the people to meet the challenges of recovery were requested.

In response, the UNHCR in late March this year announced that it had donated relief items from its global stockpiles in Dubai to assist affected populations in Mozambique’s port city of Beira.

With aid flocking from across the globe to help victims of Cyclone Idai, even the Italian Cooperation at the time cyclone hit, deployed a humanitarian cargo flight containing water purifiers, electricity generators as well as tents to set up emergency shelters in affected countries like Mozambique.

Not to be outdone, the European Union (EU) which received offers of assistance from Denmark, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom through the Civil Protection Mechanism, was at the peak of Cyclone Idai, activated in order to channel further support to countries like Mozambique through deployment of humanitarian experts to coordinate EU assistance.

From the EU alone, US$3.93 million (€3.5 million) in humanitarian aid was donated few days after Cyclone Idai struck. The aid aimed to rescue countries like Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe, with an additional USD280, 880 (€250,000) provided to Mozambique and Malawi Red Cross Societies.

In the aftermath of Cyclone Idai, the European Union again announced earlier in April an additional €12 million in humanitarian support to Southern African nations like Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi.

As a result, total EU humanitarian assistance in response to Cyclone Idai in the Southern hemisphere now amounts to over 15 million Euro, with the organisation even vowing to scale up support for the Southern African nations.

“We continue to stand in solidarity with the people affected by cyclone Idai and the floods in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi. There are still urgent humanitarian needs to be met and we are scaling up our efforts so that relief continues to be brought to the people in need,” said Christos Stylianides, Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management.

From EU’s additional donation, seven million Euro was aimed at benefiting the people in Mozambique, where up to 1.85 million people are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance following the Cyclone Idai catastrophe.

In Zimbabwe, four million Euro was also aimed at providing people affected by the Idai flood with shelter, water and sanitation, as well as food assistance.

In Malawi, where the cyclone disaster affected 860 000 people, the citizens there will benefit from the one million Euro donation also by the EU in the form of food aid and support to recover their livelihoods.

A joint statement issued by the ACP-EU in March, said: “As an expression of support by the ACP Parliamentary Assembly, discussions are underway with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to address this tragedy. We also reiterate the strong call for the international community to fight climate change and global warming, which have caused such terrible disasters.”

Juan Fernando López Aguilar, vice-president of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly, said “the terrible tragedy caused by tropical cyclone Idai and the need for help to rebuild and relaunch the areas affected demonstrates the importance to reinforce and strengthen the African-Caribbean-Pacific and European Union Partnership (ACP-EU) after 2020”.

“Our commitment for solidarity and support has been widely and strongly reiterated by all members of the Joint Parliamentary Assembly, and S&D [the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats] is at the forefront of this initiative. In particular, we call for a full commitment to meet the Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Developments Goals, keeping at the same time the 0.7 percent aid target,” added the ACP-EU Vice President.

Prior to Cyclone Idai, moved by the climate change impacts also affecting the African continent, the EU’s Chief Negotiator, Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica said in February this year, in Apia, Samoa: “We need to find new ways to fight climate change, and to protect our people and our planet.”

Nevertheless, many victims of Cyclone Idai, subsequently victims of climate change impacts like Malawi’s Chizimu, are warry of donations from organisations like ACP-EU being stolen by corrupt government officials.

“I hope the donations we hear about in the media aimed at helping us won’t be stolen by our corrupt politicians and government workers,” said Chizimu.

Nevertheless, aid has poured in across the affected countries, with the World Food Programme (WFP) spokesperson Hervé Verhoosel in Mozambique saying it “prepositioned more than 500 metric tons of food in Pemba to be ready to support those affected”. [IDN-InDepthNews –  May 2019]

Photo: A Sherp crosses flooded plains to deliver 26 tons of food to Buzi in Northern Mozambique. Credit: WFP/Adam Marlatt

This report is part of a joint project of the Secretariat of the ACP Group of States and IDN, flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate.