As tropical cyclone hits coast of East Africa, thousands are displaced in Mozambique
After making landfall on Saturday, tropical cyclone Eloise has claimed several dead, a dozen injuries and several thousands of people displaced in Mozambique, the UN’s humanitarian office said today.
Continued rainfall and flooding have punished parts of the country that were already disrupted by Tropical Storm Chalane three weeks ago.
“At least six people have died and 12 have been injured, according to preliminary figures from the Government, but that number may go up as more information becomes available and the extent of the damage is better known”, said Jens Laerke, a spokesperson for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) at a news briefing at the United Nations in Geneva.
“More than 176,000 people have been affected by the cyclone and the flooding in Mozambique, including more than 8,300 people who have been displaced”, he added.
The majority of deaths were reported in and around the coastal city of Beira, home to one of the country’s most important ports, which has seen flooding and damage to property.
The storm has also destroyed buildings and crops along the coastal area of Mozambique, which has borne the brunt of the damage. More than 8,800 houses have been destroyed, damaged or flooded, as well as least 26 health centres. Large areas of crops (142,000 hectares) have been flooded, raising concerns for the annual harvest in April.
“The tropical cyclone comes at a very difficult time in Mozambique”, said Tomson Phiri, Spokesperson for the World Food Programme (WFP). “January to March is the peak of the lean season when people struggle the most to find food. Latest statistics which were released on the 14 January from IPC, Acute Food Insecurity and Acute Malnutrition Analysis, acute food insecurity and acute malnutrition analysis indicates that over 2,9 million people are facing high levels of food insecurity, in both rural and urban areas in southern, central and northern provinces of Mozambique”.
Other areas of East Africa -- where over 2,9 million people are already facing high levels of food insecurity – have also been affected.
“The most urgent humanitarian needs identified so far include food, tents, drinking water, hygiene kits, COVID-19 prevention materials, mosquito nets, and blankets, ” Laerke said, outlining the concerns of the UN and its humanitarian partners as they step up their assistance to Mozambique’s authorities.
“As humanitarian partners we are already responding to multiple needs in Mozambique -- including to the conflict in Cabo Delgado in the north and the recent impact of Tropical Storm Chalane. More resources are urgently needed to ensure that we can scale up quickly to respond to the needs from Tropical Cyclone Eloise,” Laerke explained.
The UN and partners are currently delivering food, health care and sanitation services, as well as promoting good hygiene practices to prevent COVID-19 transmission. According to UN OCHA, some partner organizations are reporting a need for additional supplies after channeling many of their resources to the fighting in Cabo Delgado over the last few months.
“A total of 32 accommodation centers have been activated in Sofala province to provide temporary shelter for over 15, 000 families”, said Paul Dillon, Spokesperson for the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
He added that “IOM’s 160 staff in the area are working closely with the government of Mozambique, United Nations and other humanitarian partners to ensure coordination with the humanitarian response. Assessments began literally within hours of cyclone Eloise’s departure in order to determine the extent of displacement damage and the needs of local residents”.
The IOM spokesperson noted that in a displacement setting, maintaining physical distancing and best practices is extremely difficult as people are living in a closed area with no or little ventilation. IOM also said that they are distributing the stock they had such as masks in the accommodation centers for displaced persons.
“Our health staff are very concerned for chronic disease patients who lost their medicine, or their medications rather in the cyclone, and we are monitoring these accommodation centers in order to refer cases to health facilities”, Dillon said. “But unfortunately, many of those facilities were damaged themselves by the cyclone. We are also seeing many cases of malaria due to the rainy season”.
Apart from Mozambique, Zimbabwe has also suffered from the heavy rains. There are reports of localized flooding and mudslides, and that some people have drowned. Heavy rainfall and flooding have been reported in South Africa and Eswatini, where the cyclone has damaged several roads and bridges. In Botswana, widespread rainfall is expected in the coming days.