Glide №: FL-2022-000201-ZAF
A National State of Disaster has been declared after three days of pounding rain that has caused one of the deadliest natural disasters in South Africa´s recent history. According to national authorities, at least 123,808 people were affected, 448 people died and over 30,000 are displaced, mostly in collective evacuation centres. Rescue teams, including South Africa Red Cross Society volunteers, have been mobilised to the affected areas to search for the missing and bring others to safety. As of 21 April, over 53 people are still unaccounted for.
The devastation in the most affected areas of KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape provinces is immense: nearly 12,500 homes have been destroyed or damaged, 66 health centres affected, and 600 schools devastated which will put 270,000 students at risk. In addition, KwaZulu-Natal authorities indicate that businesses, roads, bridges as well as electricity and water infrastructure have been damaged or destroyed. Most casualties and destruction occurred in the most vulnerable and exposed peri-urban areas, where informal settlements flourish as people cannot afford adequate housing and had to resort to building their dwellings in high-risk areas.
Ripple effects from the disaster came soon after, with people experiencing severe distress after having lost their homes, livelihoods, and in some cases their family members. In these areas, most families rely on informal jobs to generate income, and as a result of the storm have lost their means of livelihood.
Over 30,000 people have been evacuated to 28 evacuation centres, but as the number of people arriving increases, more centres are being prepared. These crowded spaces lack safe water, sanitation and hygiene, hence there are serious risks of proliferation of diseases. Protection risks, particularly Sexual Gender Based Violence (SGBV) cannot be ruled out.
Finally, the most affected areas are not only the most vulnerable and impoverished in South Africa but have also been overwhelmed by other disasters this season, including the effects of Tropical Cyclones Ana and Batsirai, as well as direct and indirect impacts of the COVID19 pandemic. This series of shocks, socioeconomic impacts and unemployment have resulted in riots that led to repeated instances of violence, such as the one that broke out in July 2021 in KwaZulu-Natal resulting in over 200 deaths. Protests and looting have already been witnessed and may escalate further.
This disaster underscores the increasing intensity of extreme weather events caused by climate change, and their harsh impact on the most socio-economically vulnerable. More rain is forecast in the coming days which could aggravate the situation further. In addition to relief and recovery activities, preparedness and risk reduction will be assessed, planned, and included at a later stage through ‘climate-smart’ activities, which will be essential to save lives and livelihoods and reduce exposure of the most impoverished populations.