Cyclone Idai: The African Storm of the Decade

Arvind Pillai, Editor

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As South Africa reaches the peak of the monsoon season, a tropical storm has slammed into Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe and has left devastation in its’ wake. Regarded as one of the worst tropical cyclones that Africa has seen, Cyclone Idai lasted from March 4th to March 21st and has left over 750 casualties. Mozambique was the hardest-hit area from the cyclone, ravaging cities in the country so badly that the United Nations has made a $282 million appeal from reserves to supplement the recovery process.  The money is desperately needed in order to help the people displaced by the storm with healthcare, sanitation, and to help pay for the damage dealt to homes and institutions in the affected areas. Mozambique itself is underdeveloped and is one of the poorest countries in the world, so it cannot afford to cover all of the costs. President Trump has also directed United States military support to provide food and medical care for the affected.

Like other tropical cyclones, Idai originated in the ocean and headed towards coastal Mozambique, bringing winds of over 120 mph to the region along with heavy rains and floods. The cyclone continued inland to Zimbabwe and Malawi, though not as harsh as when it made landfall in Mozambique. Alongside the powerful winds and rains, the floods are also causing landslides of mud and earth which are causing even more collateral damage. Although many have been evacuated or found dead, victims are still stranded in remote rural areas and are continuing to be found as international aid reaches Mozambique. Fortunately for the rescuers, the victims in these areas are often being discovered sheltered on rooftops or in relatively stable buildings. However, resolving this crisis is not a one-sided issue: Celso Correia, Mozambique’s environmental minister, has prioritized fixing sanitation issues and preventing outbreaks of diseases in the camps where the victims are being held. Correia is especially worried that the victims will be subject to cholera, a disease spread through the drinking of contaminated water. The World Health Organization (WHO) is also concerned about possible malaria cases due to the existence of mosquitoes breeding in the contaminated waters. By focusing on medical relief efforts, the Mozambique government is potentially starving many people who have been rescued and have lived without food throughout a majority of the duration of the storm. “We really have nothing to eat, we have received almost nothing in aid,” Francisco Lopez, a farmer living in Beira said.

In terms of the roles the governments of the affected countries have played, several residents are blaming the administrations for not giving proper warning in advancement. However, Celso Correia stoically defended the Mozambique warning system, claiming that it alerted over 300,000 people in the country. The governments have also played a role in organizing survivors into recovery camps, and will assist in returning the victims back to their homes when the devastation that the storm has brought will no longer overbear.

While it may not be certain how many deaths and diseases will be accounted for at the end of this crisis, the United Nations and allies are wholly aware of the sheer amount of money and aid needed to resolve it fully. Over 600,000 people have been deployed in the affected areas, all alert as they attempt to uncover more survivors and help them recover to the state they were in before this disaster.