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Thousands Stranded After Cyclone Idai, UN Agency Says

By Akanimo Sampson

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM), a United Nations agency, says thousands of people including women and children are stranded in tropical zones without bridges or accessible roads.

IOM which has joined the response to deadly Cyclone Idai, which has taken hundreds of lives across Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi, said conditions are challenging everywhere, after the cyclone made landfall on March 15.

Mozambique’s official death toll from Cyclone Idai’s landfall has reportedly risen to at least 202 persons, but that number is expected to increase in the days ahead. The government expects the toll of fatalities to surpass one thousand.

Mozambique’s government estimates that some 400,000 are internally displaced at this time and has declared a state of emergency and three days of mourning.

Shelter materials from the U.K.’s DFID, including 7,550 shelter kits and 100 family tents sufficient for 38,000 people and five multipurpose tents, 1,000 plastic sheets and 500 shelter repair kits from Swiss Humanitarian Aid, arrived in Maputo, Tuesday, with hopes to fly that emergency aid on to the coastal city of Beira, 930km north of the capitol. There, over a million Mozambiquans have been without power.

IOM Mozambique Chief of Mission, Katharina Schnoering, said ‘’the situation is very bad. The damage is quite serious. It Is very difficult to get a clear overview of what is going on. There are many communications issues, there’s no power in Beira. There is no road access because the Buzi River came up and washed out the road.’’

Schnoering added that she has four IOM staff in Beira now, working with the government to establish settlements for internally displaced persons. ‘’Shelter, food and medical supplies are the priorities’’, she explained.

In Chimanimani, Zimbabwe, where over 9,000 people have been affected, at least four bridges have been washed away. The count of casualties is much worse: at least 64 deaths have been confirmed as well as 100 injuries— some 217 are missing. Bodies of the deceased are being kept outside Chimanimani’s mortuary which is now full. Authorities confirmed that 145 homes were swept away.

IOM Zimbabwe has dispatched 1,000 tarpaulins and 200 non-food Item kits as part of its initial response. Joint rapid needs’ assessments with partnering UN and government agencies began on Monday, March 18, covering the Chimanimani, Chipinge, Mutare, Nyanga and Buhera districts.

In Malawi, IOM is aware of 56 confirmed deaths and has identified approximately 23,000 Internally Displaced Persons in the districts of Nsanje and Phalombe, with further displaced population counts pending from the Balaka, Machinga, Mangochi and Zomba districts, where needs assessments will start tomorrow, 21 March 2019 and end on Monday, 25 March 2019.

Countrywide, IOM estimates some 739,800 people have been affected, including more than 75,900 displaced. Some 56 deaths and 577 injuries have been recorded, according to the Government of Malawi.

According to the Head of Office for IOM Malawi, Mpilo Nkomo, ‘’the greatest need we have seen on the ground is for shelter and NFIs for 23,000 people, we’ve also noted an urgent need for food, for 5,905 displaced households in the two districts of Phalombe and Nsanje in the Southern Region of Malawi.

‘’Communications have not been affected that much… people are able to communicate. The challenge here is the persistent rainfall, since the beginning of March. A number of families have been displaced. Many are seeking shelters in schools.’’

Nkomo thanked IOM Geneva for the release of $75,000 in emergency funds. The three IOM units in Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe are, with the support of Regional Office Pretoria Emergency Unit and DOE Geneva HQ  jointly working on a sub-regional appeals for more aid from the international humanitarian community.

 

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