Johannesburg/New York — Teams with the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) are responding to the damage and devastating flooding caused when Cyclone Idai hit a number of countries in southern Africa--including Malawi, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe--late last week. In addition to assessing the damage, teams are working to access people in need and get medical supplies and water and sanitation support to those in some of the most affected areas. Officials have said they expect the death toll to be in the thousands.
MSF is responding to the cyclone in the following countries:
Mozambique: Following Cyclone Idai hitting the coastal town of Beira on March 14 and devastating the coastline of Sofala, Zambézia, and Inhambane provinces, 90 percent of the area around Beira has been destroyed, main roads leading into Beira have been cut off, buildings have been submerged and severely damaged, and all business has been shut down. There is no power in Beira and surrounding areas, and nearly all communication lines have been destroyed. This has made assessment of the human toll and scale of disaster extremely difficult. At least 84 deaths and at least 1,500 injuries have been reported between Beira, Dondo, and Chimoio cities.
MSF's medical activities in Beira hospital, in local health centers, and throughout the community have ceased completely. All MSF staff have been accounted for, although several staff were injured. Following an early assessment today, an MSF emergency team is scheduled to arrive in Beira tomorrow to conduct a wider assessment on the extent of the damage and needs. MSF's main concern is to ensure continuity of care and referrals at the health centers. Medical teams anticipate that water and hygiene needs will remain high in the coming days.
Zimbabwe: Cyclone Idai hit Chimanimani, a small district of approximately 30,000 people in Manicaland province, late on March 15 after passing through Mozambique. Several roads leading into Chimanimani have been cut off, so the only access into the area is by helicopter. Airlifts were intended to take place to a nearby stabilization center, but efforts are being hampered by difficult conditions.
An MSF team has been trying to access Chimanimani with supplies and medical materials, but they have been unable to access the district due to destroyed bridges. The team is now providing services at a stabilization center approximately 20 kilometers [about 12 miles] from Chimanimani. MSF is focusing on supporting stabilization centers outside Chimanimani with medical supplies and water and sanitation support.
Malawi: Extremely heavy rains in lower Shire River districts of Chikwawa and Nsanje, compounded by further rains from last week's Cyclone Idai, have caused severe flooding. Rivers have broken their banks leaving many houses fully submerged and around 11,000 households displaced in Nsanje. Official figures confirm 56 deaths, 577 injured, and three missing.
An MSF emergency intervention has been launched with a focus on Makhanga area in the worst affected East Bank of Nsanje, which is only accessible by boat or helicopter. MSF is also supporting Makhanga health center with supplies, cleaning, and human resources. The organization is also helping with the strengthening of medical surveillance and referral systems, and outreach clinics and health promotion activities in the evacuation centers. Water and sanitation activities and distributions of non-food item kits are being planned for affected households.