South Africa

South Africa: KwaZulu-Natal Floods - Emergency Appeal No. MDRZA012 - Operational Strategy



April 2022: South Africa| KwaZulu-Natal Floods

19 April 2022: Government declaration of national disaster

19 April 2022: 332,000 CHF allocated from the IFRC’s Disaster Response Emergency Fund (DREF)

24 April 2022: IFRC issues Emergency Appeal for 8 million Swiss francs and aiming at providing support for 30,000 people.


Between 8 April to 12 April record-breaking rains inundated the region around the port city of Durban in KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa. The floods that followed washed away infrastructure, land, houses, and livelihoods. Sadly, 435 people lost their lives and to date 80 are still reported missing. A total of 19,113, households with 128,743 people have been affected by the disaster.

Since the original floods rains have continued and part of KwaZulu-Natal continue to be struck by devastating flooding with reports of more people being evacuated to safe areas and more roads and houses have been flooded. On 23 May, an orange level warning has been issued for disruptive rain, floodings and mudslides over the extreme north-eastern parts of KwaZulu-Natal.

Six weeks later and thousands remain in evacuation shelters with an uncertain future. It's a long journey ahead for many people who have lost family member, their homes or livelihoods. As the true picture of the devastation caused by the floods emerges, many still need all help. On rebuilding homes for families, the government is working to identifying suitable land to house new settlements for the displaced. But in the meantime, thousands of people have been left homeless and are living in shelters across the province.

The storm of April 11 dumped nearly 300mm of rain in just over 24 hours and became the deadliest to hit South Africa in recent history eclipsing one-day rainfall totals from previous disasters. Including the 1987 Durban floods that brought on average 225mm rainfall in 24 hours and killed as many as 500 people and the 2019 floods with 165mm rainfall in 24 hours left at least 80 dead.

On the night of 18 April 2022, the president of South Africa, declared KZN floods as national state of disaster to maximize national and provincial coordination to respond to urgent crisis in affected communities The impact of the disaster was not equally felt. South Africa is the world’s most unequal country, and it was in the poorer regions where the consequences of the extreme weather were most severe.

The hardest-hit areas were informal settlements built close to the rivers, below flood lines and rural areas especially on steep hillsides with little or no infrastructure to protect them from the elements. Many of the houses are made of basic materials, tin sheets and wood (often salvaged) and mud. Rushing floodwaters collapsed riverbanks and hillsides. Homes were completely washed away with all of their belongings. The rains and floods came at night when everyone was sleeping which made the event even more frightening and deadly. 5,704 houses are reported destroyed and 9,659 damaged. A total of 6,814 people are currently homeless in over 50 evacuation shelters (most in eThekwini). The eThekwini metropolitan municipality reports that most of its 1,152 formal businesses were impacted by the flooding. Small scale and commercial farmers suffered R20 million in crop and infrastructural damages due to the floods.

Critical infrastructure, including major roads, transportation, water treatment and supply, communication, and electrical systems, were also impacted by the flooding, and this damage greatly hampered recovery and relief efforts. Extensive damage to community infrastructure, including schools, health facilities. 270,000 learners have been affected and over 600 schools have been damaged and are closed. 66 public health care facilities have been affected.

Flooding also disrupted operations at one of Africa’s busiest ports in Durban. Parts of KwaZulu-Natal are still without power and water, and some areas are difficult to reach because of damage to bridges, roads, and rail lines. The KwaZulu-Natal provincial government estimates that billions of rand worth of damage has been caused to properties and infrastructure, describing the heavy rains as unleashing "untold havoc".

A recent survey by the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition, 20 May, states the floods had affected 31,220 jobs with eThekwini accounting for 68% of the jobs affected. Manufacturing has been badly impacted with temporary closures leaving an estimated 30,000 employees across the industry out of work and without pay for at least three months.

The disaster came at a time when South Africa, which is already struggling with high unemployment and soaring inflation. KwaZulu-Natal Health has warned about the soaring number of new COVID-19 cases.

The devastating floods in KwaZulu-Natal have brought into sharp focus the material threat posed by extreme weather and climate change. Also, rapid urbanization has seen informal settlements grow continuously in number and size. A quarter of the city's population lives in informal settlements unplanned constructions which have been built on vacant land with poor-quality materials.