Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Ursula Mueller – Opening remarks at ECOSOC Humanitarian Affairs Segment Side Event “Cyclone Idai: The Ongoing Needs,” 26 June 2019
Geneva, 26 June 2019
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
June 22nd marked 100 days since Cyclone Idai wreaked havoc in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi, catapulting pre-existing humanitarian needs to new levels.
The cyclone left a path of destruction, killing at least 1,007 people, injuring 2,300 and leaving more than 3 million people in need of life-saving assistance. Tens of thousands are still displaced. And in Zimbabwe, over 300 remain missing.
Within hours of the cyclone striking, UN agencies and their partners scaled up to support Government-led efforts. We deployed search and rescue teams, delivered life-saving food, and supported health, water and sanitation and protection systems.
A lot has been achieved in the past 100 days. The assistance has saved lives and provided critical relief to millions. Now the international community needs to maintain this solidarity and support to meet critical emergency needs, and to help people recover and rebuild their resilience over the longer term.
Vulnerability levels were also very high pre-disaster where over 5 million people needed emergency aid, and Cyclone Idai added a further 3 million.
I just returned from a trip to Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe alongside a representative from ECOSOC-HAS to see the extent of the devastation, the impact of the response and how we can best support the Governments in coming months.
In Mozambique, which was affected by two consecutive cyclones, Idai and Kenneth, hunger levels are expected to rise in coming months as the cyclones wiped out more than 755,000 hectares of crops. In other words, much of this year’s harvest was destroyed in what was the country’s bread basket.
We visited the port city of Beira, which suffered the most of Idai and where destruction is still evident, and then travelled to Dondo, where we met women, elderly and displaced people who were resettled after they lost everything. They stressed the need for support to build new homes, access health services and have means to earn a living. Many of them will not be able to return to their homes, and it is vital that resettlement solutions for all are safe, dignified, voluntary and sustainable.
The initial outpouring of support to Mozambique was humbling, but much more needs to be done. The Humanitarian Response Plan calls for US$440 million, only one third of which has been funded.
In Zimbabwe we visited Chimanimani, which was one of the hardest-hit areas. Even before the Cyclone, the country was facing a food insecurity crisis due to drought and economic crisis. Despite the evident loss and trauma, I was struck by how people are determined to rebuild their lives, such as Kuda, a displaced woman in a camp who was running a small business rearing chickens and selling eggs to support her children.
The Zimbabwe Flash Appeal, which covers the impact of the drought, the economic crisis and Cyclone Idai, is only one quarter funded, with $75 million received out of the $294 million required. Ongoing assessments indicate the number of people in need may rise further, from 5.3 million to 6 million in both urban and rural areas during the coming months.
In Malawi, we visited Chikwawa District, which experienced massive flooding after the Cyclone. A generous 90 per cent of the humanitarian response plan was funded, and the response is now transitioning from relief to recovery. The country’s leaders as well as ordinary people were determined to tackle long-term challenges. It is now critical that the Government and development partners take the opportunity of an expected good harvest to tackle the root causes of Malawi’s vulnerability and recurrent humanitarian needs.
Moving forward, each of these countries requires comprehensive solutions that incorporate food security, healthcare, water and sanitation, education and protection.
In all three countries, we met senior leadership, including Heads of States, Heads of Governments and Ministers to discuss next steps. While the impact of Cyclone Idai is felt differently in each country, leaders stressed that the devastating impact of climate change is worsening vulnerabilities and increasing needs.
While the humanitarian community will continue to focus on saving lives, it is urgent that national and international partners strengthen investment in sustainable solutions, including shock-responsive social protection systems to address and mitigate the impact of climate change.
The UN is fully committed to supporting Governments with these efforts.
At the same time, it is critical to invest in resilience, both of communities and national systems. Governments are moving as fast as they can to repair vital infrastructure in cyclone-affected areas, so they are ready for the next cyclone season, which begins in November. They will need all the support they can get.