A mother holding her young daughter in her arms stands in front of white tents set up in a temporary camp in Mozambique where Cyclone Idai has caused catastrophic damage.

2019 Cyclone Idai: Fact, Figures and How to Help

When Cyclone Idai struck northern Mozambique on March 15, 2019, four of the country’s 10 providences were already flooded due to heavy rainfall that fell earlier in the month. Hundreds of thousands of people that had previously been evacuated, including some 60,000 children, were living in shelters not equipped to handle the impending cyclone.

By the time the high-end Category 2 storm ripped into Mozambique with 110 mph (175 kph) winds, families forced from their homes were left with nothing. 

Moving inland into Zimbabwe and Malawi, Cyclone Idai left a trail of destroyed homes, schools, hospitals and infrastructure in its wake. A 30-mile-wide area in Mozambique’s Sofala province had been completely submerged.

Save the Children’s Emergency Health Unit has been on the ground helping children and families devastated by Cyclone Idai. Relief items like tents, water jugs and tarps are being distributed to the families who have been left with nothing. Learn more about Cyclone Idai, including how you can help children and families in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi affected by this disaster.

FAQs: What you need to know about the Cyclone Idai

Who was affected by the Mozambique cyclone?

An estimated 1.85 million people, including close to one million children, have been affected by Cyclone Idai.

“Thousands of children lived in areas completely engulfed by water, said Machiel Pouw, Save the Children’s response leader in Mozambique. “In many places, no roofs or tree tops are even visible above the floods. In other areas, people are clinging to rooftops desperately waiting to be rescued.”

A family saw their brick house swept away from them. When they went to another house for safety, the roof collapsed,” said Machiel Pouw. “Another family fled for safety in a tree. There are tens of thousands of heartbreaking stories like this, lives shattered over the past days.”

The disaster is one of the worst in southern Africa in decades. Areas of Zimbabwe and Malawi are also under water. Concerns grow as there are still many communities that cannot be accessed.

The double impact of Cyclone Idai and Cyclone Kenneth, which struck Mozambique just six weeks later, will affect children for years to come.

What is Cyclone Idai’s death toll?

Tragically, at least 1,000 people have been confirmed dead across all three countries. That number is expected to rise, unfortunately. It is feared that 1,000 people in Mozambique alone may have been killed.

With each passing day, the children of Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi affected by Cyclone Idai are vulnerable to hunger, diseases and exploitation, such as trafficking, all of which can lead to tragedy. Tens of thousands of children in these disaster-affected areas might not survive to see their fifth birthday. 

How much damage did Cyclone Idai cause?

Cyclone Idai wreaked havoc on everything in its path. Homes, schools and hospitals were ripped to shreds. As families fled, they watched the storm rip apart their livelihoods. Those who reached shelter arrived with close to nothing in their possession—no food, no clothing, no medicine. In the worst possible situations imaginable, families lost children. Boys and girls witnessed their parents or siblings be killed by the deadly storm.

Many families have neither a home nor a village to return to, as entire villages were wiped out. As valuable agricultural land disappeared under water, so too the region’s food security. With crops destroyed and thousands of children already on the brink of hunger, the number of malnourished children under the age of five in cyclone-hit areas of Mozambique is expected to nearly double.

The contamination of water sources has created perfect conditions for diseases to spread rapidly. More than 6,500 cases of cholera have already been reported in Mozambique. A drastic spike in malaria has led to nearly 20,680 reported cases, but with a massive public health campaign underway the number of cases is expected to decline.

More than 3,500 classrooms have been destroyed in Mozambique alone, with hundreds more in Zimbabwe and Malawi impacted. School is a cherished place for children, especially immediately following a disaster. Being out of the classroom not only disrupts a child’s learning, it hinders their physical and emotional recovery. Without the safety of classrooms and teachers, children with nowhere to go during the day are at risk of being exploited or abused.

Children’s vulnerability to abuse, exploitation and violence increases immediately following a disaster. The risk of increased gender-based violence against women and girls is also high. In Zimbabwe, more than half of the 270,000 people affected are women and children.

What is the difference between a hurricane, typhoon and cyclone?

A storm becomes a hurricane, typhoon or cyclone once it reaches wind speeds of 74 mph.

What we call a storm depends on where it occurs. Hurricanes occur in the Atlantic and Caribbean, typhoons in the Asia-Northwest Pacific region and cyclones are specific to the South Pacific and Indian Ocean.

How is Save the Children is responding to Cyclone Idai?

Thanks to the support of our donors, Save the Children has been working in Mozambique since 1986 to support the needs of children impacted by disaster. Our work in Zimbabwe and Malawi began in 1983.

Even before Cyclone Idai made landfall, our Emergency Health Unit deployed to Mozambique and stood ready to respond to the needs of children in affected communities. In the immediate aftermath of Cyclone Idai, Save the Children delivered 112,400 pounds of critical supplies like tarps, hygiene kits, water jugs and tents to Mozambique via a cargo plane.

Our teams continue to deliver much-needed support to affected communities. Blankets, mosquito nets, buckets to store clean water and solar lights are being distributed to families. We’re also providing seeds and farming tools so that families can plant a new crop – just in time for the growing season.

We continue to expand the range of our mobile health clinics and we’re finding ways to provide health care in hard-to-reach areas that are still accessible only by air. As malaria is becoming a health concern, we continue to distribute mosquito nets to protect children and their families.

To ensure children don’t miss out on months of learning, our education team has been assessing damaged schools for repairs, constructing temporary learning spaces and replacing school supplies to get classes underway.

To support the emotional wellbeing of children who have suffered loss or separation from a loved one, we have established child-friendly spaces in shelters.  A child-friendly space provides a safe place to play and receive psychological and emotional support.

Save the Children is a member of the COSACA consortium with other aid organizations and is working in close coordination with the government and the National Institute of Disaster Management to support children impacted by the disaster.

How can I help Cyclone Idai survivors?

Please donate to Save the Children’s Cyclone Idai Children’s Relief Fund to help Cyclone Idai survivors. Your donation can provide lifesaving relief.

Welcome!

We’ll be in touch! By signing up to receive emails from Save the Children you will receive a subscription to our monthly eNews, access to breaking emergency alerts and opportunities to get involved. To ensure delivery of Save the Children emails to your inbox, add support@savechildren.org to your contact list.