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Tropical Cyclone Idai Update: UNHCR response in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe, July 2019

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Key Highlights

Funding: UNHCR urgently requires US$ 11.3 million to continue providing lifesaving protection and assistance until September 2019. 28% of its total requirements has been received so far.

Mozambique and Malawi: UNHCR delivered assistance to over 10,000 beneficiaries in Mozambique, and completed the CRI distribution to 7,500 households in Malawi, as part of the Government’s return package.

Zimbabwe: Training on mainstreaming protection and prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse was conducted jointly by UNHCR, UNICEF and UNFPA at district level.

Update on Achievements

Operational Context

On 14 March 2019, Tropical Cyclone Idai became one of the deadliest storms ever recorded to hit Southern Hemisphere. The cyclone caused catastrophic flooding, landslides and large number of casualties across Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe. In Mozambique, the hardest hit by the cyclone, nearly 240,000 houses were damaged and over 111,000 totally destroyed. Approximately 1.85 million people are in need of assistance. After the closure of the last temporary accommodation centres between 15 and 22 June, displaced people were transferred to permanent relocation sites across the four affected provinces of Manica, Sofala, Tete and Zambezia. While Mozambique was still recovering from Tropical Cyclone Idai, even stronger Tropical Cyclone Kenneth made landfall in Cabo Delgado Province on 25 April causing further loss of life and extensive damage to infrastructure and housing. Nearly 200,000 people have been affected in northern Mozambique. In Malawi, nearly 870,000 people were affected including some 87,000 people who were displaced from their homes. The most affected districts include Chikwawa, Machinga, Nsanje, Phalombe and Zomba. In addition, some 1,900 Mozambicans entered into Malawi to seek safety in Nsanje District. In eastern Zimbabwe, heavy rains and strong winds caused riverine and flash flooding. Over 270,000 people were affected, 122,000 in Chipinge and 115,000 in Chimanimani districts. In addition, approximately 6,000 refugees and asylum-seekers living in Tongogara Refugee Camp were severely impacted as 1,060 houses, latrines and water boreholes were completely or partially damaged.

Tropical Cyclone Idai caused extensive loss of life, large-scale destruction of infrastructure and a surge in humanitarian needs far exceeding the response capacities of governments and humanitarian actors. On 22 March 2019, the Emergency Relief Coordinator activated an IASC Humanitarian System-Wide ScaleUp in Mozambique for an initial period of three months. UNHCR joined the collective UN system response in all three countries. As UNHCR’s response needed to be scaled up significantly, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, activated UNHCR emergency procedures covering all three countries in order to facilitate the delivery of the Office’s commitments under the IASC system-wide ScaleUp protocols. This allowed UNHCR to take the necessary actions to scale up its operational capacity, including mobilizing and/or re-allocating human, financial, material and other relevant resources. The close involvement in the joint humanitarian response also demonstrates UNHCR’s solidarity with the people in the region who have for decades generously hosted refugees and shared their limited resources with them.

UNHCR also deployed emergency teams, consisting primarily of protection staff, to the three affected countries to support the response as well as to lead the Protection Clusters that have been activated by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee to protect people with specific needs coping with the aftermath of the disaster. UNHCR is particularly concerned about the safety and well-being of women and girls, unaccompanied or separated children, disabled and elderly people living in precarious conditions in multiple makeshift displacement sites. Many female-headed households are also facing heightened risk of exploitation and abuse as their sources of income and livelihoods were destroyed by the cyclone.

UNHCR is coordinating closely with the authorities and partners, including UNICEF and UNFPA, to ensure that protection is mainstreamed throughout the response, including through preventing and responding to gender-based violence as well as sexual exploitation and abuse. In Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe, some people have reportedly lost their identity documents when their homes were destroyed or damaged by heavy winds and flooding. As protection cluster (co) lead, UNHCR is working closely with relevant authorities and partners to assess the situation and provide the support needed by the three governments.

As UNHCR was already implementing refugee operations in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe, the Offices were able to join the collective UN system wide response in all the three countries promptly. UNHCR swiftly airlifted approximately 240 MT of shelter and relief items from global stockpiles to the three countries affected to assist initially some 36,000 most vulnerable cyclone survivors. In particular, family tents and plastic tarpaulins were delivered to shelter those who had lost their homes, mosquito nets to protect from malaria, jerry cans and water buckets to store clean water to minimize cholera and other waterborne diseases, solar lanterns to provide light during the night and to recharge mobile phones, as well as sleeping mats and blankets to keep warm.

The Government of Mozambique officially deactivated the national emergency for the Cyclone Idai on 14 May 2019 and initiated the reconstruction phase. An International Pledging Conference to secure support for reconstruction following the devastation caused by cyclones Idai and Kenneth was held on 31 May and 1 June in the city of Beira, Sofala Province. Donors pledged almost US$ 1.2 billion out of the total requested needs amounting to US$ 3.2 billion. Nevertheless, robust humanitarian funding will still be needed to bridge the transition from emergency to recovery.

The UN Secretary General, António Guterres is expected to visit Mozambique, from 11 to 12 July 2019. A key objective of his visit will be to mobilise resources for the ongoing inter-agency response to provide lifesaving protection and assistance.

In Malawi, emergency clusters were deactivated on 30 June. The deactivation comes in the context of the Government’s launch of the Return and Relocation Strategy and Post Disaster Needs Assessment which aims to support timely return, recovery and a transition to development programming.

In Zimbabwe, it is expected that temporary camps will be required until end of 2019, however, Camp Coordination and Camp Management (CCCM) partner funding is expected to stop by the end of July 2019. All clusters have been requested to submit their early recovery plans feeding into the Early Recovery Working Group planning. The World Bank estimates that the recovery cost will be US$ 640 million. However food insecurity levels remain high in the cyclone affected districts of Chimanimani due to a combination of factors, including drought and the prevailing macro-economic conditions. The cyclone has had a catalytic effect worsening the situation. The cluster members are preparing the next response appeal document with programming for their respective areas of responsibility and priorities covering July 2019 to April 2020. The UN Resident Coordinator will brief the HCT on moving forward with the international response. The appeal will be multi-sectoral, but with focus on food insecurity and affordability as well as taking into account on-going humanitarian support post Idai, projects in current appeal that need to continue and/or be expanded as well as new projects required to respond to increased need.

At the end of a week-long mission to Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi in June to see first-hand the humanitarian response to Tropical Cyclone Idai, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Ursula Mueller called on the world to support the affected countries to address the challenges, risks and impacts of extreme weather events and climate change on the most vulnerable. She also emphasised during the ECOSOC Humanitarian Affairs Segment that each of these countries requires comprehensive solutions that incorporate food security, healthcare, water and sanitation, education and protection.