Amref Health Africa Responds to Cyclone Idai Disaster

by Amref Health Africa

This image shows the city of Beira in Mozambique, where Cyclone Idai has left a trail of devastation, cutting off electricity and communications, destroying homes, medical facilities and crops. (Source: UN Humanitarian Twitter)~CTV NEWS

Cyclone Idai, regarded as one of the worst tropical cyclones on record to affect Africa and the Southern Hemisphere in particular, has resulted in devastating loss of life and large –scale destruction of assets and infrastructure. In the ensuing days, entire villages were submerged underwater as floodwaters rose. Hundreds of people are reported dead while tens of thousands are displaced, many having to flee with nothing as the waters rise rapidly.

An estimated 1.85 million people in Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe are in need of humanitarian assistance and protection. While the full impact of Cyclone Idai is still being assessed, early reports indicate that an estimated 3000km2 of land is submerged, which has raised the prospect of food shortages and health challenges.

Although the death toll has yet to be disaggregated, more women than men are more likely to die in the natural disaster.

“Children, women, the elderly and people with disabilities have borne the brunt of  the storm,” says Boniface Hlabano, Amref Health Africa’s Head of Programmes for Southern Africa.

Many families have lost everything as a result of Cyclone Idai, heightening the risks of their resorting to riskycoping strategies to survive in the months ahead. Cyclone Idai also caused major damages to health facilities, with at least 45 health centres damaged by the storm and subsequent flooding in Malawi alone. Community health centres lost access to supply chains for drugs or were unable to open due to flooding. The damage to health facilities has affected women who were attending pre and post-natal clinics in neighbouring health centres, which have been destroyed or damaged.

In the wake of the cyclone, our work to bring about lasting health change to communities in Southern Malawi has been affected. Some of our beneficiaries have been displaced and evacuated to camps. Projects’ implementations areas of Makanjira in Mangochi District and some areas in Chikwawa District are not accessible due to damaged road infrastructure. Construction of boreholes in childcare centres and health facilities in Zomba have also been either suspended or scaled down because machinery cannot access some targeted areas.

Amref Health Africa is currently assessing the situation together with Government Agencies and partners with the view to respond based on identified needs. Early indications on the ground show that cases of diarrhoea, cholera and malaria are swelling by day. In all of its programming, Amref Health Africa places a special emphasis on women and girls, who are usually the worst affected by natural disasters.

While our expertise is not to undertake short term humanitarian responses to disasters such as Cyclone Idai, Amref Health Africa is working with the Governments of Malawi and Mozambique and humanitarian agencies to mitigate the impact of the cyclone with a focus on maintaining and rebuilding health systems. Key and central to our immediate interventions is strengthening household and community based diseases prevention, management and control of epidemics resulting from the effects of the cyclone. Amref Health Africa strongly believes that health is made in the household and therefore part of our efforts is to equip and support Community Health Workers with basic lifesaving kits, tools and appropriate messaging around water borne diseases, nutrition and environmental health.

In the medium to long term, Amref Health Africa in Malawi will aim to build local capacity in disaster preparedness and management in communities to reduce vulnerability in future occurrences of such disasters.

About Amref Health Africa

Amref Health Africa, headquartered in Kenya, is the largest Africa based international non- governmental organisation (NGO) currently running programmes in over 35 countries in Africa with lessons learnt over 60 years of engagement with governments, communities and partners to increase sustainable health access in Africa. Amref Health Africa also incorporates programme development, fundraising, partnership, advocacy, monitoring and evaluation, and offices in Europe and North America as well as subsidiaries; Amref Flying Doctors, Amref Enterprises and the Amref International University.

For more information contact: Elizabeth Ntonjira,
Senior Manager, Corporate Communications [email protected]
+254711337310, +254(20) 699 4365

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