An unprecedented series of five tropical storms and cyclones over consecutive weeks have caused devastation to Madagascar, Malawi and Mozambique since January, displacing many of the same people already uprooted by cyclone Idai in 2019.
The storms, which also affected Zimbabwe, Mauritius and South Africa, brought heavy winds and rain which destroyed homes, damaged infrastructure and disrupted essential services like health care and education. Hundreds of people were killed, and nearly 600,000 forced displacements have been recorded, often the same people forced to flee several times.
"Typically, we see two-to-three tropical storms with this level of human and material impact in the region per cyclone season, which runs from November to May, so this is certainly unusual," explained Clémentine André, Monitoring Expert for West and Southern Africa at the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC).
"What's even more concerning is that the World Meteorological Organization has warned that up to 12 more cyclones could hit Southern Africa before the end of the season. Remember, these are people already dealing with conflict, drought or trying to rebuild from previous disasters." said André.
The surface of the Indian Ocean has warmed faster than the global average, according to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's 2021 report, which is forecast to lead to more frequent cyclones, droughts and, in turn, displacement.
Madagascar has been heavily affected by all five storms. Entire towns were destroyed and some of the regions hardest hit are in the south, which is currently facing a severe and prolonged drought. In Mozambique, the storms uprooted some communities still reeling from conflict in the Cabo Delgado province, and others still trying to rebuild after tropical cyclones Idai and Kenneth (2019), Eloise (2021) and Chalane (2021). To this day, over 120,000 people are still displaced from cyclone Idai. In Malawi, the President declared a state of national disaster after 300mm of rainfall fell within 24 hours at the end of January.
The impacts of these storms and cyclones are likely to be widespread and long lasting. The communities affected are mostly low-income, where people are already living in vulnerable conditions, ill-equipped to withstand and recover from consecutive disasters.
"With the effects of climate change making seasonal disasters more frequent and more intense, it's clear that humanitarian response is no longer enough to break the cycle of chronic vulnerability. These communities require long-term investment in reconstruction efforts, early warning systems and climate-resilience infrastructure," said IDMC's Clémentine André.
Notes to editors
- Tropical cyclone Ana: 20-26 January 2022, total displacements in Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe 342,000
- Tropical cyclone Batsirai: 5-12 February, total displacements in Mauritius and Madagascar 61,600
- Tropical storm Dumako: 16-19 February, total displacements in Madagascar 4,300
- Tropical cyclone Emnati: 22-26 February, total displacements in Madagascar 43,600
- Tropical cyclone Gombe: 11-18 March, total displacements in Mozambique and Malawi 131,000