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Cyclone Idai devastated parts of Malawi, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe this month and dissipated last week. Recovery in the affected countries is starting, but there is still a long way to go. The death toll continues to mount. As of March 24, according to media, it at least 446 in Mozambique, 259 in Zimbabwe, and 56 in Malawi. Local authorities caution that it is likely to go much higher.
According to Mozambique Environment Minister Celso Correia, progress is being made to restore basic services in Beira, a major port city that bore the brunt of the storm. Electricity has been restored to water treatment facilities, the port, and to the vital rail lines, as well as some parts of the city. The main road that connects Beira to the rest of the country is expected to open early this week, facilitating the arrival of food and medicine to the city and to its environs.
Beira’s population is more than half a million. Its port and rail line connects interior Mozambique and landlocked Zimbabwe and Malawi to the sea. Restoration of the railway is essential for the delivery of international humanitarian assistance to those landlocked countries.
The minister’s chief concern now appears to be disease: “We’ll have cholera for sure,” he said, and malaria is “unavoidable,” given the flooding and standing water. The authorities have established a cholera center in Beira, though as yet there are no reported cases. There is also likely to be an outbreak of typhoid, and because of the damage to transportation links and disruption of markets, a food shortage.
The deputy director of the UN’s humanitarian operation, Sebastian Rhodes Stampa, reports that two large field hospitals and a water purification system are expected soon. Drones are also being used as part of an extensive effort to access humanitarian needs in central Mozambique. But UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres cautioned that “far greater international support is needed.” The region is the breadbasket of Mozambique; according to the World Food Program, this puts each affected country at risk of food insecurity in some cases on par with that faced in Yemen, Syria, and South Sudan.