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After the storm: Barriers to recovery one year on from Cyclone Idai

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12 months after Cyclone Idai, tens of thousands of people in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi are still struggling to piece their lives back together. Their road to recovery is blocked by an endless cycle of intensifying floods, droughts and storms,ingrained poverty and inequality,and a lack of support to help them adapt to a changing climate or to prepare for and recover from disaster.


On Thursday 14th March 2019 Cyclone Idai made landfall in the port city of Beira in central Mozambique. The cyclone – which brought intense rainfall and winds of up to 177 km/h – left a trail of destruction across Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe.Less than six weeks later, on April 25, Cyclone Kenneth battered northern Mozambique around 600 miles north of Idai’s impact zone. With wind speeds of 220 km/h it was the strongest cyclone on record to hit Africa.

In the space of just six weeks, two of the worst cyclones on record in the southern hemisphere, hit some of the world’s poorest countries,leaving 3.3 million people in desperate need of humanitarian assistance.

The cyclones were supercharged by an escalating climate crisis that the people of southern Africa have done little to create. Per capita emissions of the average UScitizen are 51 times higher than the average person in Mozambique and 155 times higher than the average Malawian.

Today – 12 months on – millions of people across Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe are still living in limbo:

  • Tens of thousands are still living in destroyed or damaged homes or makeshift shelters – 43,352 people were displaced in Zimbabwe and 93,516 people were living in temporary shelters in Mozambique at the end of last year.

  • 9.7 million people in Malawi, Zimbabwe and Mozambique remain in desperate need of food aid as a result of the cyclones together with torrential rain in parts of the region, an ongoing drought elsewhere, as well as localized conflict.

  • Damaged infrastructure – such as roads, bridges, power and water supplies, latrines, schools, and health centres – is making it hard for people access vital services and for local economies to recover. For example, in February 2020 Oxfam staff reported that there were problems getting heavy equipment for drilling boreholes into parts of Capo Delgado in Mozambique – an area hard hit by Cyclone Kenneth and recent floods – because of damaged bridges.

This brief outlines why so many people are still struggling to rebuild their lives one year on. It shows how intensifying cycle of floods, drought and storms; ingrained poverty and inequality; and the failure of the international community to provide the long-term support communities need to adapt to and recover from climate shocks have made it all but impossible for people to rebuild their lives.