Tropical Cyclone Idai strikes Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi

In the wake of Tropical Cyclone Idai, the first cases of cholera were confirmed in Beira, Mozambique, and the World Health Organization warns of the risk of a second humanitarian disaster.

Tropical Cyclone Idai is one of the worst weather-related catastrophes to affect Africa in recent history. The cyclone made landfall during the night of March 14, 2019 near Beira City, Sofala Province, in central Mozambique. The cyclone brought torrential rains and winds to the provinces of Sofala, Zambezia, Manica and Inhambane. As the storm moved inland, it caused widespread flooding and destruction in parts of Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi. Southern Malawi had also experienced heavy rains a week prior to cyclone landfall. As of March 26, flooding caused by Tropical Cyclone Idai has affected nearly 3 million people, with thousands of people displaced, and caused at least 678 deaths in Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

The port city of Beira in Mozambique was hit hardest, with many homes submerged and destroyed and healthcare infrastructure severely damaged. According to Médecins Sans Frontières, 90% of the area around Beira has been damaged, with roads and electricity cut off. The city’s water supply system has also been substantially damaged, forcing many people to drink from contaminated wells or stagnant water. As a result of the lack of access to clean water and increasingly squalid living conditions, the government announced the first recorded cases of cholera on March 27, in which five cholera cases were discovered in Munhava, one of the poorest neighborhoods of Beira. The number of cholera cases has reportedly jumped to at least 139 by March 29. The World Health Organization has warned of a “second disaster” if cholera spreads in the cyclone-affected region.

In southern Malawi, extremely heavy rains in lower Shire River districts of Chikwawa and Nsanje, has also been compounded by additional rains from Cyclone Idai. Although cholera has not yet been reported in this region of Malawi, the risk of cholera outbreak also remains a major concern.

Numerous international and local emergency teams have responded to the disaster, including Médecins Sans Frontières, International Rescue Committee, Save the Children, International Committee of the Red Cross and a team from Fondation Veolia.