Cyclone Idai: how your donations are helping people rebuild their lives
13 March 2020
On 14–15 March 2019 Cyclone Idai tore through Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Malawi, devastating towns and villages.
Thanks to your generosity, our frontline Church networks across Mozambique and Zimbabwe have reached vulnerable communities with life-saving food, clean water, and hygiene kits.
Reaching vulnerable communities
Our experienced Caritas aid workers continue to be a lifeline to families made homeless by the flood waters of Cyclone Idai (14 March) and Cyclone Kenneth (25 April).
After Cyclone Idai, your donations have allowed us to reach thousands of families in Mozambique and Zimbabwe who suffered the effects of the cyclones. Emergency assistance such as shelter kits, blankets, mosquito nets and soap has given way to longer-term aid for people across both countries looking to rebuild their lives.
Reaching people most in need has been possible because Catholics of England and Wales have put their faith into action - showing that no one is beyond reach of the critical emergency aid they need to survive disasters like Cyclone Idai.
Dombe in the Chimoio district is one of the worst affected areas. Work has got underway to build 25 houses, and 18 classrooms across Beira and Nhamatanda have been repaired, which means that more than 8,000 students can return to education. Over 600 mattresses have been distributed and 400 families have received seeds and tools to re-start farming.
Already, more than 70,000 people have been supported to earn a living, and to have shelter and clean, safe water.
Some families still needed the basics, so 700 shelter kits, along with kitchen items, such as utensils, and wash items, such as soap, buckets and water-purification tablets (aqua tabs) have been distributed to a further 3,500 families.
As communities face the challenges of reconstruction and starting over, building resilience and supporting families to be better prepared for future climate shocks, is at the heart of our longer-term response in Mozambique, where disaster risk reduction (DRR) training is taking place in communities, which can save lives and help families to be more resilient.
In Chimanimani and Buhera districts, in eastern Zimbabwe, flood waters cut off communities. Our experienced aid teams continue to work with communities as they face the challenges of reconstruction, and rebuilding lives.
Vital water sources were destroyed in these areas, and it has been a priority to repair boreholes, and protect spring water sources as well as the building of new wells. This work has given more than 40,000 people clean, safe water.
Farming is a way of life in this area, and many farming families lost everything to the flood waters. Seeds, and agricultural advice to kick start the next planting season has been shared with 720 farmers.
Communities facing climate shocks
Christine Allen, CAFOD Director, said:
“Over the last year, we’ve seen the reality of the climate emergency around the world – whether Cyclone Idai in Mozambique and Zimbabwe, the fires in Australia or the floods here at home caused by Storms Ciara and Dennis.
“In all of these situations, it’s the most vulnerable people who are worst hit, and this is even more the case in the world’s poorest communities which are least able to prepare for and recover from disasters.”
The impact of Cyclone Idai
- The worst-affected country was Mozambique. Beira city, in the Sofala Province, was hit head-on by the cyclone, which brought torrential rains and winds of up to 140 km/h. Almost 90% of the city was submerged, and a tidal surge cut off several villages in the district.
- An estimated 1,000 people were killed, and more than three million were affected by a storm which destroyed crops, roads and bridges, homes, schools and health centres. Just five weeks later, on 25 April, Mozambique faced Cyclone Kenneth.
- Across the three countries, tens of thousands of people were made homeless.
Surviving Cyclone Idai: A mother's story
Juan, 45, and his wife Anita, 34, were among the people caught up in the trail of destruction. The couple have six children and five grandchildren living with them. At the time of the cyclone all their grandchildren were under three, with the youngest only four weeks old. They were able to survive thanks to emergency help from local Caritas aid workers.
"I had to grab my three-week old grandson as I thought he would drown. We ran to the school for shelter and had to stay there for four days. We have lost everything – our clothes, the babies’ clothes, utensils, documents."
Anita Lopez Paulo in Tica, Mozambique
“On the day of the cyclone, the winds started blowing in the afternoon, but we soon saw that there was a real threat,” said Anita. “We were hiding in our house when the roof ripped off. We ran to a mud outbuilding to take shelter. We stood upright all night with our hands over our heads.”
“The following day the flooding came at us from both sides. I had to grab my three-week-old grandson as I thought he would drown. We ran to the school for shelter and had to stay there for four days. We have lost everything – our clothes, the babies’ clothes, utensils, documents.”
The family received tokens which could be exchanged for tarpaulins and emergency food aid.
Anita's nephew, Fernando Jose, 26, said: “Having a token is a better way. It is well organised and will give us a lifeline, which is good. We know we will get help with the token.”
Learn more about Cyclone Idai
What countries have been affected by Cyclone Idai?
Cyclone Idai hit Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi, destroying homes, roads, bridges and vital crops. Mozambique was the worst affected country. The cyclone claimed an estimated 1,000 lives and left three million people needing some form of humanitarian aid.
How is CAFOD responding?
Our local aid workers are on the front line of emergency response work. When the cyclone hit they were already reacting through local church networks, getting what provisions were available to communities in need, but the demands were great. We pledged an initial £100,000 for Mozambique and £50,000 for Zimbabwe, but your generous donations swiftly raised the total to over £2 million. This enabled our frontline aid workers to scale up their emergency response work, reaching more vulnerable families with the aid they needed, and supporting families and communities as they started to rebuild their lives.
How have families been affected by Cyclone Idai?
The communities affected by Cyclone Idai rely on agriculture and natural resources for their living. The impact of this cyclone has jeopardised water and food sources. Contaminated water systems have meant communities coping with outbreaks of cholera and other waterborne diseases. The UN reports that there have been over 6,000 cholera cases in Mozambique's Sofala province alone.
There is still much work to do as families start to move back to their villages. It is not just a matter of rebuilding homes - infrastructure such as roads, bridges, schools and hospitals also have to be reconstructed.
As well as delivering vital aid, our presence on the ground, responding to the needs of vulnerable families, has also fostered a sense of hope - that despite the challenges ahead, families will able to face the future and start to rebuild their lives.
What is the Church in the affected countries saying?
Bishops from Mozambique, Malawi, Zimbabwe and across Africa called for prayers and humanitarian aid following the deadly floods caused by Cyclone Idai.
In a statement, Bishop Charles Kasonde of Solwezi, Chairman of the Association of Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa, called for people to “respond to the cry for humanitarian assistance in whichever way possible”.
He explained that the need for humanitarian aid was urgent. Thousands of people needed the most basic requirements for life - food, clean water and shelter. Some temporary shelters were already at capacity.
“I pray for encouragement to all those involved in rescue operations and humanitarian assistance that they may not tire of supporting their brothers and sisters who need them most during this difficult time,” said Kasonde.
“I also pray that our partners and people of good will who have always journeyed with us in both good and bad times may rise up to the call.”
Pope Francis said at the General Audience in St. Peter’s, Rome on Wednesday 20 March:
"In recent days, great floods have sowed mourning and devastation in various areas of Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi. I express my pain and closeness to those dear people.
“I entrust the many victims and their families to the mercy of God, and I implore comfort and support for those affected by this calamity.”
Was Cyclone Idai caused by climate change?
It isn’t yet possible to say that climate change is directly to blame for individual disasters such as Cyclone Idai or other major storms and floods. But scientists are warning us that the changing climate is making disasters more frequent and more severe.
What is clear is that climate change is hitting the poorest people the hardest. The communities which have contributed least to temperature rises are those who are least able to cope when disasters strike. This is fundamentally unjust.
To address this, we need to take more action more quickly. CAFOD supporters are calling on the UK government to stop our contribution to climate change within a generation by setting a new and more ambitious target for eliminating the emissions which are driving climate change.
We can also help to reduce the impact of climate change by providing people living without access to electricity with renewable energy such as solar panels. This is the safest, most reliable and cheapest way of bringing power to people in poor communities.
As well as this, we need to help people in poor areas to reduce the impact of climate change. This includes helping families to rebuild their lives after disasters strike, as we are doing in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi.
What can I do to help?
You can donate to the CAFOD appeal. Your donation will help us reach those in the greatest need:
- £30 can provide blankets to keep two families warm.
- £50 could provide a family with food for a month.
- £100 could help build a toilet and washing facilities for families who lost their homes.
How you can donate
You can also donate by post:
55 Westminster Bridge Road
Please make cheques payable to CAFOD.
Donate to CAFOD by phone:
Tel: 08085 85 88 85