Massive flooding in Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe

UNICEF bringing relief for children and families in the wake of Cyclone Idai.

Mozambique. Two children sit in a damaged classroom in Beira, Mozambique.

Cyclone Idai has left families in Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe facing devastation. At least?1.6?million children need urgent assistance. Many of them have lost their homes, schools, hospitals,?friends and loved ones. Since Idai hit,?UNICEF has been?moving quickly to respond, providing critical emergency supplies to camps and communities to assist those displaced by flooding.

Cyclone Idai: What’s happening?

On 14 March, tropical Cyclone Idai made landfall at the port of Beira, Mozambique, before moving across the region. Millions of?people in Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe have been affected by?what is the worst natural disaster to hit southern Africa in at least two decades.?

At least 1.6 million children need urgent assistance – in healthcare, nutrition, protection, education, water and sanitation.?In Mozambique alone, more than 305,000 children have had their education interrupted because of damage caused by Cyclone Idai, with over 3,400 classrooms damaged or destroyed in cyclone-affected regions.?

Just over a?month since Idai struck, flood waters have largely receded across the three countries, and some affected families have started to return home. But?thousands remain in evacuation camps.?

What is UNICEF doing?

Getting medical supplies to displaced families

Any prolonged interruption in access to essential services could lead to disease outbreaks and spikes in malnutrition, to which children are especially vulnerable. In Mozambique, UNICEF has provided vaccines to successfully immunize 900,000 people against cholera and?has begun distribution of 500,000 mosquito nets to protect children from malaria.

In Zimbabwe, UNICEF has provided more than?60,000 people with critical information to prevent waterborne diseases. It is also launching a cholera vaccination campaign in partnership with Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Health and Child Care and WHO, to protect over 480,000 people.

Mozambique. The vaccine for cholera is prepared at an accommodation for people displaced by Cyclone Idai.
The vaccine for cholera is prepared at an accommodation in Mozambique for people displaced by Cyclone Idai.
Providing access to safe water and sanitation

Without safe and effective water, sanitation and hygiene services, children are at high risk of preventable diseases including diarrhoea, typhoid and cholera, and also increasingly vulnerable to malnutrition.?Since the cyclone hit Malawi, UNICEF has provided safe water to more than 53,000 people and toilets to over 51,000 people. In Mozambique, UNICEF helped restore the water supply for 500,000 people in the hard-hit city of Beira.

Mozambique. Water starts flowing from a pump at an accommodation centre for people displaced by Cyclone Idai.
Water starts flowing from a pump at an accommodation centre in Mozambique for people displaced by Cyclone Idai.
Ensuring access to education

Many schools and hospitals have been destroyed or damaged or are being used for shelter.?Any prolonged interruption in access to learning could have devastating consequences for children over both the short and long term.

Education is essential for helping children return to a sense of normalcy following a traumatic event, like a major cyclone, and for their long-term development and prospects.?UNICEF and partners have therefore been distributing?educations packs to children affected by the flooding.?UNICEF is also working on scaling-up psychosocial support to affected children and reunifying unaccompanied and separated children.

Mozambique. A child holds an education pack.
A child receives her education pack at a primary school in Beira, Mozambique.

Lives swept away

Zimbabwe. A woman walks to a distribution point for supplies.

CHIPINGE, Zimbabwe?– Joyce Mtetwa?will never forget the night her family lost everything, as her world crashed down around her.

It started with the rain, as?Cyclone Idai swept into Zimbabwe, forcing Joyce to huddle with her four children in her bedroom. Then came the powerful winds. “They blew the tin roof right off of our house,” Joyce recalls. “We ran outside. It was raining so hard. And then the walls of our house just began to crumble.”

Chipinge District is one of the areas hardest hit by what has been described as the worst natural disaster to strike southern Africa in the past two decades. More than 270,000 people in Zimbabwe have been affected, half of whom are children.

Joyce, whose husband passed away seven years ago, had been relying on a small maize field and vegetable garden to provide food for her children. But the catastrophic flooding and winds destroyed both, and Joyce says she isn’t sure now how she is going to provide for them.

Read Joyce’s story

NSANJE, Malawi –?“The water came in the middle of the night, Martha says. “I woke up to find water filling up the house. I was so scared, I thought we were going to die.”

“We could see dry land far out on the Malawian side, but on the Mozambique side the water stretched as far as we could see. So we decided to go to Malawi.” Unfortunately, the family did not have enough money for all three people.?Martha’s husband, Timothy, made the courageous decision to send his wife and child to safety and stay behind himself.

“I haven’t seen or heard from him since,” Martha says. “I wish we were together now.”

Read Martha’s story

Malawi. A woman sits with a child.
UNICEF Malawi/2019/Amos Gumulira
Mozambique. Families displaced by flooding wait at a shelter.
UNICEF/Mozambique/2019/Javier Rodriguez

GONDOLA, Mozambique –?“First it was the wind blowing hard. Then came the heavy rain,” says Angelina Paulo, a single mother of seven children. “All of a sudden, the roof came down over our heads.”

“We managed to get out alive and we ran to a neighbor’s house where we stayed until the storm passed. We went to find shelter in the nearby school before we were moved to this warehouse,” she says. “I’ve lost everything, my house and my crops.”

Angelina’s story is a familiar one among the families who have taken shelter in the Cafumpe accommodation in the district of Gondola, in the central province of Manica.

A mobile health team has been providing?primary health care to those affected by the floods, especially women and children. Angelina says that her three-year-old son, António, had a fever and was diagnosed as suffering from Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) and malaria.

Read Angelina’s story

How you can help

Right now, families in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe are facing devastation brought by Cyclone Idai. UNICEF is moving quickly to respond to the impact of the cyclone. Children and their families need safe drinking water, health supplies and emergency shelter.