Southern Africa: 1.6 Million Children Still Need Urgent Assistance After Cyclone Idai

Children affected by Cyclone Idai.
19 April 2019

Cape Town — Just over a month after Cyclone Idai tore through Southern Africa bringing devastating floods, UNICEF says the needs in Mozambique remain massive, with 1 million children in need of assistance, followed by more than 443,000 in Malawi and 130,000 in Zimbabwe.

In its efforts to protect vulnerable children from cholera, Unicef's chief communications officer Daniel Timme says an immunisation process has already been completed - adding that the organisation was also distributing mosquito nets to protect children from malaria.

"UNICEF has been assisting survivors since day one. We have provided vaccines to successfully immunize 900,000 people against cholera. UNICEF has also begun distributing 500,000 mosquito nets to protect children from malaria, and helped restore the water supply for 500,000 people in the city of Beira," said Timme.

UNICEF says they are also concerned that damage to education infrastructure could compound what were already low rates of school enrollment and learning achievement in Mozambique and has launched an appeal for U.S.$122 million to support its humanitarian response for children and families affected by the storm and its aftermath, in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi over the next nine months.

Timme says funding is now dwindling, at a time where a concerted response is still needed.

"In the first few days of the disaster, there was great interest in what was going on in Mozambique, but that interest has since waned. The reality is that it will take many months to rebuild, both physically and in terms of crucial social services. I would say the greatest need now is funding so that we can sustain the humanitarian assistance we are offering on the ground in Beira and other affected areas," he said.

Responding to reports of corruption and theft of relief items in all three countries, Timme says UNICEF has put measures to ensure humanitarian assistance reaches victims.

"UNICEF has stringent mechanisms in place to ensure the funds and items in its possession reach the intended recipients. We have a tight monitoring system, which includes regular spot checks. UNICEF also works closely with implementing partners at various levels and we ensure a strict chain of control. We also have third-party monitoring mechanisms in place to ensure the safety of items in our care," he said. He also called on governments to play their role.

"The intensity of Cyclone Idai should serve as a wake-up call for everyone around the world. Mozambique is no stranger to cyclone activity, but the severity of this particular storm is something we have not seen in nearly two decades. It is also an indication to us that, as we rebuild schools, hospitals and homes, we must rebuild stronger and better so that we can better withstand the next natural disaster if it were to hit Mozambique," he added.

In the coming weeks, campaigns are planned around measles vaccination, deworming and vitamin A boosters, and continued support of the establishment of several health clinics in resettlement areas.

In Malawi, UNICEF is providing water trucks, toilets and child-friendly spaces for evacuation centres, as well as medicines and mobile clinics, education and recreation kits, volunteer teachers, and child-friendly spaces in evacuation centres. Since the cyclone hit Malawi, UNICEF has provided safe water to more than 53,000 people and toilets to over 51,000 people.

In Zimbabwe, they are distributing hygiene kits, rehabilitating water systems and restoring sanitation facilities, providing vital health and nutrition supplies and working with partners to deliver psycho-social support to vulnerable children in child-friendly spaces. UNICEF has provided over 60,000 people with critical information to prevent waterborne diseases and, starting Monday 15 April, will launch a cholera vaccination campaign in partnership with Zimbabwe's Ministry of Health and Child Care and the World Health Organisation to protect over 480,000 people.

Tropical Cyclone Idai was one of the worst tropical cyclones on record to affect Africa and the Southern Hemisphere. The storm caused catastrophic damage in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Malawi, leaving more than 1,000 people dead and thousands more missing.

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