Humanitarian assistance and recovery efforts continue following Cyclone Idai
The rotary-winged workhorse of the SA Air Force (SAAF), the Oryx medium transport, is again proving its worth in flood-ravaged Mozambique. Since the two Oryx, one each from 17 and 19 squadrons, were deployed on Monday, 18 March 2019, on a post-Cyclone Idai damage assessment they have brought at least two thousand stranded Mozambicans to safety at hastily set-up camps on high ground. Lieutenant Colonel Piet Paxton, SO1, Operational Communication at SANDF Joint Operations Division, said communications with Beira were “extremely problematic” but it appeared the twin-engined helicopters would bring a further six thousand Mozambicans to camps during the next few days.
The camps have been set up on high ground on mostly privately-owned farms and are supplied by various government, non-government organisations (NGOs) and foreign government agencies and departments. These include the SAAF and the SA Military Health Service via a specialist air medical evacuation team and other military healthcare practitioners with an SA Navy dive team on 24 hour standby in Simon’s Town if needed.
Also ready to assist is US African Command (Africom) at the direction of the US Secretary of Defence. The Germany-headquartered command will respond to the US Agency for International Development’s (USAID) requests for support and assistance in the flooded region. “Africom is actively monitoring and assessing the situation while positioning assets to support the government of Mozambique,” said Marine Corps General Thomas Waldhauser, Commander, US Africa Command. “We are working with the Department of Defence, inter-agency partners, and Mozambique government to provide assistance.”
Africom has designated Combined Joint Task Force, Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) as the lead for US Department of Defence disaster relief efforts.
Elements from CJTF-HOA are on site conducting initial assessments. CJTF-HOA is working with the government of Mozambique, the Department of State and USAID to ensure a comprehensive response to the humanitarian crisis.
In addition to the two Oryx helicopters and an Agusta A109 light utility helicopter, the SAAF contingent in Mozambique will be bolstered by a 41 Squadron PC-12. The light transport will be tasked with personnel and reconnaissance.
Indications are one of the three South African military helicopters will be tasked with ensuring the safe arrival of engineers (electrical and water) at the Cahora Bassa dam site. They will inspect and report back on the best methods to bring full power supply back from the hydro-electric plant.
AFB Waterkloof in Centurion has been used by a chartered An-12 ferrying supplies, mostly medical and food, to Mozambique. The aircraft flew to Beira at the weekend carrying 12 tons of much-needed supplies and equipment and returned to the base ahead of loading at least another five tons of much-needed equipment and supplies for the Mozambican port city on a Tuesday take-off. Paxton said the supplies and equipment came from organisations such as Gift of the Givers, other NGOs and donations.
Another country assisting Mozambique is India, which sent three ships to the southern African country (INS Sujata, ICGS Sarathi and INS Shardul). They were on a training mission when they were diverted to Mozambique to provide medical assistance, clothes and food. The embarked helicopters have been used to evacuate people from areas cut off by flood waters.
To sustain relief operations, another ship INS Magar, loaded with relief materials, is being sent to Mozambique. Assistance is also being sent to Zimbabwe and Malawi.
Gift of the Givers medical team leader, Dr Qasim Bhorat told of his experience in Mozambique, days after Cyclone Idai claimed the lives of many people and left others in desperate need of aid and medical attention.
The cyclone that hit the region on 15 March 2019, has affected 2,6 million people in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi; and claimed the lives of more than 700 people while leaving hundreds of thousands without shelter.
Bhorat said air rescue in Beira, is the only option in the inaccessible areas. “There are many pockets of flooded areas with people still stuck on roofs and trees,” he said.
While in Estaquina, an area near Bizo, where the Gift of the Givers has a second team, said Bhorat, rescues are being conducted mainly by water. “Using our boats the Gift of the Givers team with the support of local farmers, have rescued close to 2 100 people,” he said.
Bhorat said in collaboration with the South African Defence Force, people stuck in flooded areas were rescued and relocated to the government clinic at Gwaragwara. He said an additional specialised medical team was mobilised including GPs, orthopaedic surgeons, gynaecologists, paediatricians, dietitians and others. “They will fly to Beira and be deployed to Estaquina, where approximately 6 000 people are severely affected, and take along additional supplies and over 500kg of medicines,” he said.
Meanwhile, British Airways will be giving all money collected through its Flying Start charity to support those affected by the cyclone. Holly Gray, British Airways community investment manager, said that for the next two weeks, all on-board envelope collections will go to the Disasters Emergency Committee’s relief efforts in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe.
The Pick ‘n Pay group will donate food worth R200 000 to aid the millions of people who have been affected.
Some areas have not yet received aid because supplies were sent to locations where thousands of families were stationed in the immediate aftermath of the cyclone. The Gift of the Givers has set up a mobile rescue operations unit in Estaquinha, just over 100 kilometres west of Beira, to make sure food, water and medical supplies are taken to areas up and down the Búzi River which burst its banks during the flood. The relief efforts are supported by independent teams from Zimbabwe.
A trailer filled with first aid kits and a state-of-the-art communications GPS system has been set up in front of the team’s camping area. Gift of the Givers’ Grant Tyson said, “We’ve got 11 vehicles. We’ve pulled in a huge big trailer called our mobile command post. From there we can run our operations with activities to the air to monitor where our vehicles are.” The camp is situated about a kilometre away from the Búzi River.
A green four-man tent with an extension filled with medical supplies has been stationed approximately 50 metres from a football field where helicopters have been landing. An elderly woman arrived just before sunset on Sunday with a broken arm needing surgery. She had to leave with a brace from the first aid kit. With no tarred roads or hospitals nearby, it may be a long while until she receives the help she really needs.
With the death toll from Cyclone Idai passing 750 human, organisations in Mozambique are continuing rescue and relief operations further inland where smaller communities are stranded.
People can be seen from above using makeshift boats to row across the brown flood water that’s not yet receded.
Elsewhere, many trees have been uprooted. The smell of damp, rotting vegetation over harvesting areas is one more sensory signal of how the flooding has impacted people’s lives. With most relief efforts going out to areas where large groups of people are gathered, residents don’t know when they can start rebuilding their lives.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) called the disaster one of the worst humanitarian crises in recent history for Mozambique. An estimated 400 000 people were displaced by the storm and resulting floods. The agency appealed for 10 million Swiss francs in emergency funds to aid 75 000 people in dire need of assistance. The French Red Cross transported household items from their warehouse on La Réunion within days of the cyclone. With support and funding from the French Government, the agency provided equipment to the Mozambique Red Cross to support relief operations. Three delegates each from the Emirates Red Crescent would be sent to Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. The Portuguese Red Cross deployed a medical and disaster management "surge team" ahead of major operations by the IFRC. On 21 March 2019, the Singapore Red Cross announced it would be donating S$121 000 (US$90 000) to aid in relief operations in Mozambique and put a team on standby to assist with disaster response. On 24 March 2019, the IFRC revised their appeal for Mozambique in light of far greater damage than initially anticipated. The agency requested 31 million Swiss francs to support 200 000 victims for two years. Additional personnel, monetary, and disaster risk reduction support was provided by the Turkish Red Crescent, Spanish Red Cross, German Red Cross and Belgian Red Cross.
The South African National Defence Force provided aerial and ground assistance to relief efforts in Malawi and Mozambique starting on 16 March 2019. On 18 March, the Department for International Development of the United Kingdom sent £6 million (US$8 million) to Mozambique and Malawi as a humanitarian relief. The following day, 7 500 shelter kits and 100 family tents arrived in Mozambique to provide temporary housing to displaced persons. A further £12 million (US$16 million) worth of food, water and shelter kits, was provided on 20 March. The country also assisted the WFP in providing food to 140 000 people through the end of March. On 19 March, the European Union released an emergency aid of €3.5 million (US$4 million) to Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe, The United Arab Emirates sent د.إ18,3 million (US$5 million) worth of food, water and shelter supplies. Norway provided kr6 million (US$700 000) to World Food Programme. On 22 March, Portugal contributed an aid of €29 000 (US$33 000) to Manica and Zambézia Province of Mozambique. Ireland will give €1,05 million (US$1,2 million) to the victims of Idai. Canada also distributed C$3,5 million (US$2,6 million) to the humanitarian organizations dealing with damage caused by Idai. IsraAid sent personnel to Mozambique to assist in the recovery. Personnel were readied to offer medical supplies, relief supplies and psychological care to people affected by the storm. Personnel were also prepared to help restore access to safe water.
Médecins Sans Frontières arrived in Beira on 18 March 2019 to assess medical needs and treat victims. With clinics and hospitals across the region severely damaged or destroyed or lacking power and water, efforts to treat injuries were hampered. In conjunction with the Red Cross, The Salvation Army worked to provide two meals a day to 500 families in the city for three weeks beginning on 20 March 2019. CARE Australia started an emergency appeal for funds on 20 March and deployed personnel in the affected nations. Two C-130 aircraft from the Portuguese Air Force carrying soldiers, medical personnel and a disaster relief team left for Mozambique on 21 March. The Indian Navy diverted three ships to the Port of Beira to provide humanitarian assistance. Indian aid forces reported that relief efforts were made more difficult by strong tides, which gave them only "two-to-three-hour" intervals to act. By 24 March 2019, the Government of Morocco deployed four aircraft from the Royal Armed Forces collectively carrying 39 tons of relief goods.
South Africa’s Police Service and non-governmental organisation Gift of the Givers, on Tuesday, 27 March 2019, presented four sniffer dogs to Zimbabwe’s ambassador in Harare, Mphakama Mbete, that will be used to help in the search for victims of Cyclone Idai. The tropical cyclone barreled through Chimanimani and Chipinge districts killing over 200 people in Zimbabwe alone and destroying infrastructure worth tens of millions of dollars. However over 300 people are still missing with some bodies buried under debris after mudslides induced by the tropical cyclone swept away whole villages.
A team of four dog handlers from the South African Police Service (SAPS), four rescue technicians and four advance paramedic assistants, who are part of its search and rescue team arrived in the country on Tuesday afternoon. “In the aftermath of Cyclone Idai, members of the South African government and Gift of the Givers have come here largely at the request of the government of Zimbabwe. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs contacted me and indicated that what they needed currently were sniffer dogs and South Africa has sent a team of people to assist in this regard,” said Mbete.
Mbete also took the opportunity to present food stuffs, school stationery, blankets and clothes donated by South Africans to victims of the natural disaster. He also revealed that they had also provided similar assistance to Malawi and Mozambique two countries that also suffered in the wake of the cyclone.
Zimbabwe is currently battling to take care of displaced victims of Cyclone Idai, while searching for bodies and survivors in the muddy and devastated terrain of the eastern highlands. Ordinary Zimbabweans have also been pulling together and donating towards the cause.
South Africa’s Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Lindiwe Sisulu, visited Mozambique and Zimbabwe on Thursday, 28 March 2019, delivering humanitarian supplies to the two million victims of Cyclone Idai. The minister was accompanied to Beira and Chimanini by mining magnate and humanitarian Patrice Motsepe. Sisulu visited South African and United Nations rescue teams working to help those displaced by the flooding two weeks ago. She’s carrying food, clothes, water and blankets collected from South African businesses and individuals.
Sisulu will also visit South African National Defence Force rescuers and compatriots who have volunteered to do para-medical and rescue work for non-governmental organisations.
Source: Defence Web, The Mercury, EWN, Wiki, New Zimbabwe