Malawi cyclone: UN steps up support, rescues 178 people

THE UN and partners are ramping up support for Malawi in the wake of Tropical Cyclone Freddy, which killed 190 people this week and injured dozens more, prompting the government to declare a state of disaster.

The storm – which has been raging since Feb. 6 – made landfall for a second time on the African continent over the weekend, barreling into Malawi on Monday, and strong winds and torrential rains continued to cause extensive damage and loss of life in 10 districts.

“We are mobilising additional teams, but difficult weather conditions have hampered rescue efforts,” UN Spokesperson, Stéphane Dujarric, said at a news conference in New York on Wednesday.

He added that at least 178 people had been rescued in the past two days, with the support of boats from the World Food Programme (WFP).

Malawi is currently in the grip of a cholera outbreak – the worst in two decades – and the health sector is already overstretched.

The UN has been rapidly mobilising support to address immediate needs, pending a multi-sectoral assessment.

This has included technical and financial assistance to establish an Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) that has been critical in strengthening humanitarian coordination among the authorities, aid organisations and development partners.

Several UN agencies have deployed staff to the affected areas to support coordination of response and assessment efforts in the areas of information management and logistics.

The UN is providing critical logistical support, including transportation for search and rescue operations, and to ferry humanitarian workers, equipment and supplies to communities that have been cut off by flooding and landslides.

Medical supplies and equipment are being delivered to improve water and sanitation infrastructure to address immediate health needs, including preventing the further spread of cholera.

UN agencies are also distributing food, shelter materials, tents, dignity kits and other items to displaced persons.

Cyclone Freddy made landfall in Mozambique for a second time, bringing more heavy rains, strong winds, and widespread flooding.

Tropical Cyclone Freddy, which initially formed off northern Australia, has cut a deadly and destructive path across southern Africa, hitting Madagascar and Mozambique on two separate occasions.

The World Meteorological Office (WMO) recently warned that it was on track to become the longest-lasting tropical cyclone on record.

The UN is concerned about continued heavy rains and flooding in Mozambique, which is also battling a cholera outbreak.

Dujarric reported that in Zambezia province, large swathes of land were under water, and roads were not passable, making it difficult for aid workers to conduct assessments.

“Still, our humanitarian partners there have dispatched enough medical kits for 150,000 people for three months, as well as rapid cholera tests, and tents and fuel to support the Hospital in Quelimane.

“In Inhambane province, our partners distributed hygiene kits and food,” he said.

He said the full extent of the impact would only be known in the coming days, though noting that investment in early warning and early action had resulted in fewer fatalities. (NAN)