Cyclones, floods, and disease outbreaks continue to plague the Southern Africa and Indian Ocean region. At the start of 2019, almost 11 million people in the region face food shortages. In addition to providing life-saving aid when disasters hit, and helping those affected recover in the aftermath, the EU also focuses on preparing communities and institutions, to reduce the impact of disasters and implementing early warning systems and early action.
What are the needs?
In March 2019, tropical cyclone Idai made landfall in the city of Beira, located in central Mozambique bringing devastating heavy rains and strong winds, while heavy rains and floods affected neighbouring Malawi and Zimbabwe. Cyclone Idai left a death toll of more than 800 people in the three countries and affected over two million more, leaving many of them homeless and in need of food and shelter.
The humanitarian response is ongoing in Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe, led by the respective governments. However, significant challenges remain, as heavy rains have damaged roads and main access bridges have been washed away. In the aftermath of the cyclone, a cholera outbreak was reported in Beira.
On 15 March 2019, UN and humanitarian partners in Mozambique appealed for US$40.8 million to provide critical emergency relief to 400 000 people who are estimated to be affected by tropical cyclone Idai based on projections of people living in the cyclone’s trajectory.
Extreme weather events such as cyclones, floods and droughts are a regular occurrence in the southern Africa region, their frequency and impact being increasingly exacerbated by climate change. Countries in the region oscillate between very dry and very wet weather, which both adversely affect crops and livestock. Drivers of food shortages in the region include poor agriculture techniques, depleted soils, pests and land access issues, governance, poverty and demographic pressure. The number of people who do not have enough to eat remains high at almost 11 million, with Malawi, Zimbabwe, and Madagascar being the most affected countries.
How are we helping?
Following tropical cyclone Idai’s landfall, the EU allocated €15.5 million to provide support mainly in humanitarian food assistance, shelter, healthcare, and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) to the flood- and cyclone- affected people in Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe, and in the transport of aid to people cut-off by the floods. Additionally, the EU allocated €150 000 towards the Mozambique Red Cross Emergency Appeal and €100 000 to the Malawi Red Cross as an initial emergency response.
In the immediate aftermath of cyclone Idai, civil protection teams from several EU countries were deployed to Mozambique through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism to provide emergency services, such as the setting up and operation of emergency field hospitals and water purification systems. The European Commission’s Copernicus Emergency Management Service was also activated and provided reference maps for the three countries used by organisations involved in the emergency response.
Between 2016 and 2018, the EU has provided close to €81 million in humanitarian aid, and disaster preparedness and response funds for its humanitarian partners in the Southern Africa and Indian Ocean region. EU assistance has contributed to building resilience among vulnerable communities and strengthened the capacity of disaster management authorities, improving their capacity to deal with recurrent natural disasters.response to the measles outbreak in Madagascar in late 2018, the EU signed a 3 month grant with UNICEF for €500 000 to buy vaccines. In effect, a vaccination campaign started in February this year. And in Mozambique, the EU gave €300 000 in humanitarian assistance to help 30 000 in host communities and over 11 000 returning refugees who had fled from violent clashes into Malawi.
The EU closely monitors the humanitarian situation in the region and responds to emergencies. Currently, the EU supports disaster preparedness activities aimed at stepping up the preparedness and response capacities of local civil protection bodies and communities at risk of natural disasters. Several EU-funded projects use technology and innovative approaches, such as the use of drones to map high-risk areas or the sending out of bulk mobile text messages to warn communities of an impending danger. Preparedness and prompt action can greatly reduce the impact of natural disasters and help avert the loss of life and property.
In Madagascar and Zimbabwe, EU humanitarian aid plays a pivotal role in promoting systems that can quickly provide vulnerable people affected by shocks with emergency cash grants. This is to avoid people having to sell their possessions when food runs out, only to find themselves destitute and even less able to cope with the next disaster or drought.
In 2018, the EU allocated €11.5 million to support disaster preparedness, emergency response and food assistance throughout the region, especially in Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe.