Cyclone Idai: your donations are helping people rebuild their lives

22 December 2019

Six months on Cyclone Idai thousands reached with aid

Cyclone Idai: thanks to our Church network and your donations, thousands of people have been reached with life-saving aid.

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On 14–15 March 2019 Cyclone Idai tore through Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Malawi, devastating towns and villages. 

Reaching vulnerable communities 

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. Our experienced Caritas aid workers continue to work around the clock to get aid to where it's needed, a lifeline to families made homeless by the flood waters of Cyclone Idai (14 March) and Cyclone Kenneth (25 April).  

In Mozambique 

Boats were used to load up food aid, destined for the remote area of Buzi, where at least 50 families were sheltering in the local parish church. Safe, clean water has been made available to more than 1.3 million people so far in the aftermath of Cyclone Idai. More than 150,000 received hygiene kits and advice to keep them safe from disease. And farmers are already planting for the next season, thanks to your support, which allowed our aid teams to distribute 90,000 seed kits. 

In Zimbabwe

Our aid team on the ground in eastern Zimbabwe told us that access beyond Chimanimani, one of the worst-hit areas, remains very poor because major bridges were washed away. Despite this, Caritas aid workers have tirelessly reached communities cut off by the flood waters. We have distributed emergency supplies to 32,000 people, including tarpaulins, shelter, latrines, and some of the basics of life - soap, towels, pants, and sanitary pads - restoring a sense of dignity for women in particular.

In both countries, it will take months, if not years, for people to rebuild their lives. But our experienced aid teams will continue to work with communities, not only to support them as they face the challenges of reconstruction but also to ensure that they receive disaster risk reduction (DRR) training, which can save lives and help families to be more resilient. 

Our response 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.

Southern Africa urgent appeal: find out about the food crisis affecting Zimbabwe

The impact of Cyclone Idai

  • On 14–15 March 2019 Cyclone Idai tore through Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Malawi.
  • 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. 

Christine Allen, CAFOD’s Director, said:

“The more we see and hear of the destruction caused by Cyclone Idai, the more shocking is the devastating impact on the lives of children, women, and men. Reports from the ground tell us of entire villages submerged and whole families missing.

“But there are still lives to be saved, and communities who need our help. We cannot delay reaching those in urgent need."

A message from the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops 

The Catholic Bishops Conference of Zimbabwe issued this statement on 22 March: 

“We think of all the people who have been left homeless and as well as losing loved ones have lost all their possessions, including their crops and livestock.

 “As Jesus tells us during this season of Lent: ‘Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate,’ let us try to open our hearts to those anguished people.

“In whatever way you can, try to assist them through your prayers, your love and through whatever material resources you can share with them in their time of much suffering."

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.” 

Anita Lopez Paulo with one of her grandchildren at the distribution of tokens prior to the distribution of food aid and tarps in Tica, Nhamatanda.

Anita Lopez Paulo with one of her grandchildren at the distribution of tokens prior to the distribution of food aid and tarps in Tica, Nhamatanda.

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.”

Support us to reach vulnerable families affected by the floods 

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.

Please keep the people affected by the floods in your thoughts and prayers

How you can donate

Donate online now

You can also donate by post:

Romero House 
55 Westminster Bridge Road 

Please make cheques payable to CAFOD.

Donate to CAFOD by phone:

Tel: 08085 85 88 85 

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