‘Revved up climate action’ needed to counter ‘prolonged’ and deadly storms like Cyclone Idai: Guterres

UNICEF/Prinsloo A mother feeds her 2-year-old son at the Samora Machel school where they were brought after their homes were destroyed and flooded in Buzi, Mozambique.

This article is brought to you in association with the United Nations.


Cyclone Idai and the mounting death toll is “yet another alarm bell about the dangers of climate change” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on Tuesday, warning that vulnerable countries like Mozambique, would be hit the hardest unless urgent action is taken by nations across the world.

“Such events are becoming more frequent, more severe and more widespread, and this will only get worse if we do not act now”, said the UN chief. “In the face of turbo-charged storms, we need revved up climate action”, he added, addressing correspondents at UN Headquarters in New York.

The Secretary-General has convened a Climate Action Summit this September, to try and mobilize countries around the urgent need to reduce global warming to well under 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, in line with the 2015 Paris Agreement.

The death toll across Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe, stands at around 700, but figures are expected to rise, with hundreds still missing. An estimated three million have been affected, nearly two-thirds of them in Mozambique, where key port city Beira was “practically razed to the ground” while the farmland interior has been inundated, said Mr. Guterres.

At least a million children need “urgent assistance”, and “we fear that whole villages have been washed away places we have yet to reach”, the UN chief added, with reports that $1 billion-worth of infrastructure has been destroyed. He said citizens of the three southern African nations would need “strong, sustained support”.

On Monday, the UN launched a launched a $281.7 million revised flash appeal for Mozambique, designating the disaster a “scale-up emergency”, which is the most severe: “I call on the international community to fund these appeals quickly and fully so that aid agencies can urgently ramp up their responses”, said Mr. Guterres.

Response from UN and partners ramps up amid devastation

Conditions for survivors of Cyclone Idai remain dire, with devastation enormous and “an extremely high risk of diarrhoeal diseases like cholera”, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday, briefing reporters in Geneva.

Dr Djamila Cabral, WHO Representative in Mozambique, said that in Beira, Mozambique, more than 100,000 people have lost their homes and all of their possessions.

In addition, “families, pregnant women (and) babies are living in temporary camps in horrific conditions…without secure food supplies, or safe drinking water and sanitation”.

At least 1.8 million people need humanitarian assistance in Mozambique alone. Cases of acute watery diarrhoea similar to cholera, have already been reported among victims.

To prevent an outbreak, WHO is sending 900,000 doses of oral cholera vaccine to the devastated country that should arrive later this week. It is also pre-positioning supplies to treat diarrhoeal diseases, including lifesaving intravenous fluids and diagnostic tests, while also setting up three cholera treatment centres, including an 80-bed facility in Beira.

To counter a spike in malaria in the coming weeks, WHO is also preparing to provide 900,000 insecticide-treated bed nets to protect families.

Rapid diagnostic tests and anti-malarial medicine are being sent high-risk areas, too, but this and other health needs will require “at least” $38 million over the next three months, Dr. Cabral said.

Coordinating food needs for cyclone victims, the World Food Programme (WFP) is targeting 1.7 million people in Mozambique with food assistance, 732,000 in Malawi and 270,000 people in Zimbabwe.

The assistance also includes logistics and emergency telecoms support. Satellite imagery shows numerous flood plains including an “inland ocean” the size of Luxembourg, WFP said in a statement. In Mozambique’s Sofala and Manica provinces, isolated communities are still trapped and awaiting search and rescue teams.

Zimbabwe, Malawi, need emergency funds too

In Zimbabwe, 95 percent of the road networks in affected districts have been damaged, while in Malawi, the cyclone had limited impact, WFP spokesperson Hervé Verhoosel said.

“This support will require $140 million for life-saving interventions in Mozambique for the next three months; $15.4 million for the next two months in Malawi and $17 million for next three months in Zimbabwe,” he added.

In a separate appeal, covering other needs, such as shelter, clean water and sanitation, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and humanitarian partners called for $282 million to support victims in Mozambique.

According to OCHA, nearly half a million hectares of crops have been flooded, along with huge damage to homes and infrastructure.

A severe loss of livestock is also expected, leading to worsening food insecurity across the central region of the country, which was already suffering from poverty and development problems before the cyclone hit.

The appeal covers needs over the next three months and adds to the requirements in the existing Humanitarian Response Plan for Mozambique which now stands at $337 million.        

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