Long-term aid is crucial in the wake of Idai

A stranded family sits on top of their home after Cyclone Idai, outside Beira, Mozambique, March 21, 2019. REUTERS
A stranded family sits on top of their home after Cyclone Idai, outside Beira, Mozambique, March 21, 2019. REUTERS

“I wasn’t able to save anything except this baby.” With devastating simplicity, 30-year-old mother of three Chipo Dhliwayo summed up the horror of the worst weather-related disaster to hit the southern hemisphere. Like millions of others caught in the path of Cyclone Idai, she fled her home, clutching her six-month-old son as rocks and mud rained down and buried her two daughters. The cyclone has left an unprecedented trail of death and destruction in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe, impacting the lives of 2.6 million people and wreaking havoc in three of the poorest countries in the world. More than 1,000 people are thought to have died in the storm and subsequent floods.

Large swathes of Mozambique have been flattened and cut off by the freak weather, leaving half a million residents of the port city of Beira stranded and rendering access extremely difficult for aid workers. Rescue efforts have been hampered as 90 per cent of the city’s infrastructure has been destroyed. With roads and bridges swept away, power and communications cut off, houses destroyed and residents forced to climb rooftops and trees for shelter, the death toll is only likely to climb. Rescuers face a Hobson’s choice of deciding who to save, with dangers everywhere. As one aid worker said poignantly: "Sometimes we can only save two out of five.”

As The National learned while reporting from Mozambique this week, the biggest problem is access The aftermath calls for a concerted, co-ordinated effort from the international community to prevent survivors of the cyclone dying from starvation or poor sanitation. The next few hours and days are critical in responding with emergency aid and food supplies. The UAE was one of the first countries on the ground, sending Dh18.3 million in aid and dispatching expert teams. Britain and the European Union have also pledged Dh38.2 million and Dh14.3 million while the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund has allocated Dh73 million to help those most affected. Beyond such efforts, urgently needed to save as many lives as possible, there will need to be a long-term commitment globally to help rebuild the devastated countries and restore some kind of normality. A humanitarian crisis of this scale will not be resolved in mere weeks but the key will be to prevent more tragedy than Cyclone Idai has already wreaked.

Published: March 21, 2019 07:06 PM


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