Cyclone Idai: The breath-taking scale of the disaster

For hundreds of people stranded on a patch of higher ground, a helicopter is the only way to bring in urgent relief supplies

Virginia Gimo was walking toward us when we stopped her. She was following a group of rescuers.

Virginia Gimo in Mozambique
Virginia Gimo, 42, is from the village of Maucumba

We asked, “Are those all your possessions on your head?” She responded with, 

Yes this is everything I own, my life has been swept away.

“Are your children OK?” we asked and she said, 

This one on my back is the only one I know is fine. I have no idea if my other children are still alive. That is why I am going with those rescuers, to look for them.

This story is heart-breaking – and so many people affected by Cyclone Idai have similar stories to tell.

Manuel Mssassa Antonio, 21, told us:

In Buzy there are people still in trees. I have seen them fall out of the trees into the rivers. They were too tired and exhausted. They couldn’t hold onto the trees any longer and fell into the waters and swept away.

Manuel Mssassa Antonio in Mozambique
Manuel Mssassa Antonio, aged 21, helped to rescuee people stranded in trees

We had two boats evacuating people, but they have no fuel left so there is nothing we can do.

Despite the scale of the devastation and the chaos on the ground, help is starting to get through.

Loading bottled water onto helicopter
This is an Indian Navy aircraft, they were practising nearby when they got the call for help and came
Emergency staff move boxes of supplies
High-energy biscuits and bottles of water are being flown to isolated villages, islands amongst the flood waters
Cyclone damaged buildings, Mozambique
Flying over the city you see the true destruction of the cyclone’s power with residential homes torn open
Flooded land in Mozambique
What was once farmland appears to be more of an ocean than land
Village house surrounded by floodwater, Mozambique
Flying over farm land that is now flooded you see the occasional hut, crumbling in the flood waters

As we approach the “island” of Guara Guara we see a throng of people awaiting our approach. The town is now home to an estimated 1,300 people and more are arriving every day from surrounded villages. It’s the highest point in this area and is now home to everyone who has survived the flood waters.

People unloading emergency supplies, Mozambique
We unload the high-energy biscuits and bottles of water with a group of young men helping to carry them off. The supplies are welcome but people need more than just biscuits: they need food, rice and other necessities
Houses surrounded by flood water, Mozambique
The houses on the outside of the village are still surrounded by water, reminding us how perilous the situation remains

What CARE is doing

In Mozambique, CARE and its partners have airlifted family-sized tents, buckets and emergency kits (which include blankets, mosquito nets and other supplies) to areas that are inaccessible by road, including parts of Beira and in nearby Guara Guara. Shelter specialists are on hand to set up the tents. CARE has also delivered some shelter and sanitation kits in the region of Dondo. Assessment teams report that food and clean water remain critical needs, however, and families with children are struggling the most.

Tents with UK aid logo, Mozambique
Emergency shelters provided with funding from UK aid and distributed by the COSACA consortium of CARE, Oxfam and Save the Children

In Malawi, CARE has distributed thousands of water containers and packages of plastic roofing sheets for displaced people. So far we have provided shelter and water assistance to 6,750 people. We are preparing for food distributions to 54,000 people and have ordered 175,000 water purification tablets from CARE emergency supplies held in Dubai. CARE experts have also established 21 protection committees in camps to ensure women and girls are protected from abuse.

In Zimbabwe CARE has started distributing hygiene kits in the worst affected areas and is planning to scale up our response to other affected areas including Buhera and to include food security and livelihoods support as well as shelter and non-food items such as blankets and cooking equipment. The most affected districts are in Manicaland and Masvingo provinces specifically Chimanimani, Chipinge, Mutare Bikita and Zaka districts.

We are on the ground delivering what help we can, but more help is urgently needed – not just now but for many months to come, as people they face the huge task of recovering from the devastation and rebuilding their lives.

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News and stories are provided by CARE staff working to support our emergency responses and long-term development programmes.