Oxfam’s initial aims are to reach up to 500,000 people – hopefully more – including in partnership with other international and local NGO partners, to help people hit by Cyclone Idai. Oxfam today began appealing for money to help them.
The number of casualties and affected people are set to rise from the two million currently estimated. Rains are still falling and waters rising in some areas. The destruction of roads, bridges and communications means that some areas are still completely cut off. Search-and-rescue – and eventually aid and recovery – are being terribly hampered.
Oxfam Country Directors in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe all speak of a sense of people’s desperation in the hardest-hit areas, and of widespread destruction of crops and livelihoods.
Rotafina Donco from Mozambique said there are people flooded from their homes and now in transit camps who haven’t eaten for days. She said some people were still waiting to be rescued, clinging to treetops or on mountainsides. “Food prices are rocketing,” she said.
Machinda Marongwe from Zimbabwe 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 of Malawi said that in the camps, where displaced people have congregated from the floods and their destroyed homes, “there 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 of an evening with whatever food they had been able to find. He said that some communities could only be able to 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 disease.”
The cyclone with winds of 170km/hr and heavy rains hit the port city of Beira in Mozambique where 90% of the land is under water and communications are cut off. Sergio Zimba, Oxfam in Mozambique’s Communications Officer, has just arrived there: “We have been confined to the airport, where most of the development agencies are gathered. We are getting daily briefings but it has been impossible to reach the field.”
“We are trying to get around this problem, but there are huge logistical challenges. There are no cars here. We are determined to save lives and working around the clock to ensure effective logistics can be put in place.”
In Zimbabwe, where over over 80 deaths have been officially recorded so far and hundreds more still missing, roads are impassable and rescue helicopters grounded because of bad weather. Fredrick Kupfambamhandu, Oxfam’s Water and Sanitation Team Leader in Zimbabwe, said: "Ascertaining the extent of damage has been difficult as the area is only accessible by air at the moment. The road network was greatly damaged. Zimbabwe army troops only managed to reach the affected areas on foot today."
Netsai Shambira, Oxfam’s Regional Women’s Rights and Gender Justice Coordinator, said: “We are conducting a rapid gender analysis to inform our responses because 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.”
Oxfam’s initial response is being planned around sanitation, health and hygiene, trying to ensure people have access to clean water, and also food aid.
Photo: Tina Kruger / Oxfam Novib