Even before the full extent of damage from Cyclone Idai is known, government and aid officials are calling it one of the worst natural disasters to hit southern Africa, perhaps even in the Southern Hemisphere, in decades.
The storm, which first struck Mozambique last Thursday before moving inland to Zimbabwe and Malawi, caused widespread flooding throughout the region. It has displaced hundreds of thousands of people in Mozambique alone, and has affected more than a million lives in three of the world’s poorest countries.
Central Mozambique was hit particularly hard. Aid groups estimate that 90 percent of Beira, a port city that is home to about a half-million people was destroyed. In Buzi, the United Nations warned, rising floodwaters may partially submerge the town.
As rescue workers struggle to reach remote regions difficult to get to in even the best of circumstances, they are confronting obstacles like floods, debris and damaged roads and bridges.
Aid organizations have begun a broad effort to provide relief, including food, shelter and medicine.
Here are some of the organizations helping those affected by the cyclone.
• Doctors Without Borders has teams in Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique, including in Beira, that are assessing damage and prioritizing need. Though some areas in the region are still inaccessible except by boat and helicopter, the group is already supporting health centers with supplies and medical resources in Malawi.
• The International Rescue Committee has deployed medical staff and supplies to a mobile clinic in Chimanimani, Zimbabwe, and is waiting to gain access to other areas. The group is also providing food. Longer term, the group’s focus is on water, sanitation and health, as well as economic recovery.
• Humanity & Inclusion has worked in Mozambique helping people with disabilities since 1986. Reinforcements to its 40-person team in the country are assessing logistical barriers to aid. The group says its broader response will include direct food assistance, water treatment devices, temporary shelter and other aid.
• Save the Children has delivered 56 tons of aid to Mozambique, including tarps, water jugs and tents, and its emergency health unit will assess damage to health facilities. The group estimates that 350,000 children have been affected by the storm in Mozambique.
• The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is already providing shelter and water purification supplies in Beira. Two additional emergency response units have been deployed to the city to provide sanitation facilities and water. The International Committee of the Red Cross is helping register missing persons and reconnect families separated by the storm.
• Catholic Relief Services is working with partners in all three countries to provide food, water, shelters and other supplies to an initial 4,000 families.
Charity Navigator is a nonprofit watchdog that provides ratings for charities based, in part, on their accountability and transparency. They have included the following organizations in their roundup of top-rated cyclone-relief groups:
• ActionAid is on the ground in all three countries. In Zimbabwe, it is preparing to distribute shelter, blankets, food, hygiene kits and clothing. In Mozambique, the group has already provided fuel and shelter. In Malawi, it will focus on protecting women and ensuring that children have access to education in camps.
• Water Mission has an existing program in Malawi, and has deployed additional staff and equipment to the area, including water pumps, purification tablets, chlorinators and generators. The group is also working with partners in Mozambique.
• Direct Relief is moving emergency medical supplies, medicine and hygiene items to affected areas in conjunction with local partners. The group says it is concerned about the possible spread of disease caused by flooding and the lack of sanitation and clean drinking water.
• Americares is preparing deliveries of emergency aid, including antibiotics and other medical and hygiene supplies.