On March 14, a cyclone hit three countries in Southern Africa, causing devastation across Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Malawi.
The heavy rainfall and strong winds of Cyclone Idai destroyed entire villages, damaging infrastructure and killing at least 750 people — although as flood waters now recede the death toll is predicted to rise.
Millions more have been impacted by the effects of the cyclone; displaced from their homes, left without access to food or clean water, and vulnerable to the spread of waterborne diseases like cholera, the first cases of which have now been reported in the city of Beira in Mozambique.
The international aid effort began even before the cyclone reached land but even so, the impact of the cyclone has reportedly been larger than anyone had anticipated.
In the days since the cyclone, the UK has become the largest donor to the Cyclone Idai response, helping provide life-saving relief to the millions of people impacted by the cyclone. So far, the UK has provided £22 million in support to survivors, including food, water, and shelter across the three countries.
We asked the UK’s Department for International Development (DfID) exactly how British efforts are supporting the response — including in ways you might not think.
1. British Experts
The UK was one of the first in the international community to respond to the crisis, according to DfID’s spokespeople over email, deploying humanitarian experts to the region before the cyclone made landfall.
There are now seven UK aid experts from London who are helping to coordinate the response on the ground, and helping make sure relief gets to where it’s needed. These experts are working closely with aid agencies and the government of Mozambique.
Meanwhile, two airport operations experts have also arrived in Beira — on March 24 and March 26 — to help train staff in dealing with the soaring frequency of incoming flights carrying international aid and aid workers.
Medical experts from the UK are also now on the ground, supporting local communities and agencies to deal with the growing threat of disease, working alongside the World Health Organisation in Mozambique to assess the growing threat of cholera.
2. Advance Warning
As well as experts arriving in the countries affected, DfID is also working alongside some of the UK’s leading flood experts at the Universities of Bristol and Reading — as well as the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts — to predict how the extent and impact of flooding could change up to 10 days in advance.
More heavy rains are forecast for the regions hit by the cyclone, with bad weather and access already posing challenges for those on the ground. However being forewarned about flooding patterns means that aid workers are more able to plan ahead and prioritise their resources.
3. Shelter, Food, and Water
As part of the immediate relief — the resources needed as soon as a disaster hits — the UK has helped provide shelter, food, and clean water for those hit by the cyclone, working alongside agencies and partners like UNICEF on the ground.
“The situation on the ground in Maputo [capital of Mozambique] is incredibly serious,” said Cate Turton, DfID’s head of office in Mozambique, in an interview with ITV. “Since the rainfall the city has had no power, large areas are underwater, schools and hospitals have been destroyed, and the situation is still deteriorating.”
“The aid right now will be used for shelter,” she continued. “We have a bay load of shelter materials arriving and my team is at the airport receiving those.”
“We’re working with WFP to deliver food to 120,000 people over the next two weeks,” she said. “But we need to address sanitation and the issue with dirty water as a priority.”
DfID has worked to support the World Food Programme (WFP), for example, in delivering airdrops of high-energy biscuits to isolated pockets of people stranded by floodwaters in Beira. Meanwhile, it has also been delivering easy-to-prepare fortified food to displaced families sheltering in schools and other public buildings in the town of Dondo in Mozambique.
Head of DFID Mozambique, @CateTurton, is in Beira to see #CycloneIdai relief efforts for herself.#UKaid is supplying tents, shelter and water purification kits, and has also helped transport two generators from Maputo to get the city's water pumping station working again. pic.twitter.com/jnPZAeD39i— DFID (@DFID_UK) March 25, 2019
Tents and temporary accommodation are also helping support families who have been forced by flooding to leave their homes. One delivery on March 25, for example, saw 100 family tents and 7,550 shelter kits arrive in Beira — enough to provide shelter for 38,000 people, according to DfID.
This delivery was distributed by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), the National Institute of Disaster Management (INGC), and other agencies.
4. Forklift Trucks
But there are also sides to international aid funding that you might not even realise are necessary in a disaster-hit area.
The UK has, for example, also sent equipment to the affected areas, to help unload urgent supplies from planes and get the supplies to people in need.
That includes air cargo handling equipment like forklift trucks — as part of a delivery that departed from the Doncaster-Sheffield airport on March 24.
Thousands of @whatalifesaver water cubes en route to Mozambique to help victims of #CycloneIdai access clean water.— DFID (@DFID_UK) March 25, 2019
British explorer @Levisonwood explains how they work:https://t.co/Zi2Nje5q46pic.twitter.com/9tCOFui0zx
5. Aid Match
The funding to help alleviate suffering across Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe is coming from the UK’s aid budget — which works out as 0.7% of Britain’s gross national income (GNI).
As well as distributing this funding directly, DfID also takes its guidance from where and how the British public want the funding spent. This is guided by an initiative called aid match, which essentially means that DfID matches donations made by the British public.
For the cyclone relief efforts, DfID announced last week that it would be aid matching the Disasters Emergency Committee’s appeal for survivors of the cyclone.
6. Calling for Support
The UN has this week launched an appeal for $282 million in funding to help relief efforts for health, water, sanitation, and hygiene issues — as well as food security, and helping people rebuild their livelihoods.
Meanwhile the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has also launched an appeal for $30.5 million to provide life-saving aid for 200,000 of the most vulnerable people in Mozambique.
As well as its funding efforts, the UK is also now helping lobby the international community to contribute to the coordinated effort, according to DfID.
Penny Mordaunt, the UK’s international development minister, said: “We stand ready to scale up our support if needed.”
“The images of loss and devastation following this deadly cyclone and extreme weather are shocking,” Mordaunt added. “The people of Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe should know that they are firmly in our thoughts at this difficult time, and that the UK stands by their side.”