MSF emergency teams are providing medical assistance in the aftermath of Cyclone Idai

Cyclone Idai response: March 2019

MSF emergency teams are responding to the damage and devastating flooding caused by Cyclone Idai in Malawi, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe.

More than 100 tonnes of supplies, including medical kits, water and sanitation equipment, logistical items and other supplies have been sent to Beira in Mozambique. 

After cholera was declared on 27 March, it seems as though a widespread outbreak in Beira has now been averted following an emergency vaccination campaign - carried out by the Ministry of Health with the support of MSF. 

Many health centres, schools and other services in the area have re-opened, however, communities are still vulnerable in the aftermath of the disaster.


Five weeks after Cyclone Idai, a second tropical storm - Cyclone Kenneth - hit the coast of Cabo Delgado province in the north of Mozambique, causing extensive damage and widespread flooding.

On 2 May, a second cholera outbreak was officially declared - this time around the northern town of Pemba. MSF's emergency response is already underway in support of the Ministry of Health.

The impact in Mozambique

Tropical cyclone Idai hit the coastal town of Beira on 14 March and has wrought extreme devastation along the central coastline of Sofala, Zambézia and Inhambane provinces.

According to the Government of Mozambique, 602 people have been confirmed dead, and over 1,500 injured, as of 8 April 2019.

The overall situation has in many ways slowly stabilised. Life in many parts of Beira and the flood-affected provinces of Zambesi, Sofala and Manica has in many ways returned to normal.

However, monitoring the health situation remains important while communities are still vulnerable and other consequences of the disaster may yet emerge.

With large areas of stagnant water still present, one concern is that mosquito numbers could increase resulting in higher rates of malaria. As of 22 April, 14,863 cases of malaria have already been reported in Sofala Province.


A second tropical storm, Cyclone Kenneth, hit the northern coast of Cabo Delgado province in Mozambique on Thursday 25 April. Several towns and communities are heavily damaged, while there are large areas that are flooded, or are at risk of flooding. 

Uprooted and damaged trees on Matemo Island in Cabo Delgado province, following Cyclone Kenneth

In Pemba, the capital of the province, MSF already had a small team present working on a water and sanitation project. Medical and logistical supplies were then sent to Pemba from the Cyclone Idai response in Beira, in anticipation of an emergency response.

“Matemo Island is heavily destroyed by Cyclone Kenneth, as well as the city of Macomia and its surrounding villages”, says Danielle Borges, coordinator of the project in Pemba.

“The impact of two cyclones in such a short space of time is devastating; it is a hard blow for the country that had only just started recovering from the first one."

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In Beira, our cholera response in support of the Ministry of Health was very quick – as quick as it could realistically be given the supply and access constraints in the days after the cyclone. We were treating patients suffering from acute watery diarrhoea, suspected to be cholera, as early as 21 March. 

The emergency vaccination campaign launched on 3 April reached 803,125 people, representing 98 percent of the targetted community.

We are continuing to support the Ministry of Health to address the ongoing cholera outbreaks in Beira, Buzi, Nhamatanda district and Dondo, as well as to prepare for possible further outbreaks in other locations like Mafambisse and Matua. As of 22 April, the official number of cholera cases in these areas was 6,596 people.

In the aftermath of Cyclone Kenneth, a second cholera outbreak was declared on 2 May.

So far, this has affected the northern town of Pemba and district of Mecufi in the cyclone-hit Cabo Delgado province.

MSF is supporting the Ministry of Health by providing materials such as tents, water and sanitation equipment for a cholera treatment centre in the town, and is also preparing to respond to cholera or cholera-like symptoms and support the health infrastructure in Mecufi.

A vaccination campaign is being planned by the authorities.


Cyclone Idai was the first time a major natural disaster has hit a country with a high prevalence of HIV.

Our HIV projects were disrupted by the storm when health centres were damaged or destroyed, as well as when MSF staff were pulled into the emergency cholera response.

We have now returned to full capacity providing care for patients with advanced HIV, as well as to those with a statistically high risk of HIV, in Beira.


Local authorities in Beira were quick to focus their energy on restoring the supply of clean water. While this decision saved countless lives around the city, the clean water was not reaching all of Beira’s residents.

To support the water supplied by the authorities, we installed a water treatment facility in Chingussura, a suburb to the north of Beira.

Our facility provides up to 7,500 litres of clean water per hour for the local healthcare centre and the local community.

Water remains a real concern across the flood and cyclone affected areas of Mozambique. Whilst city water supplies have returned to many of the flood and cyclone affected areas, thousands still struggle to access clean water.

Our water and sanitation teams are out in the community putting in water points and assessing existing ones

We have around 1,000 staff in the disaster area:

  • 120 Mozambican staff who worked with MSF already in Beira before the cyclone
  • 755 newly-recruited Mozambican staff, recruited specifically for this emergency response
  • More than 140 international staff from countries in the region and worldwide

More than 100 tonnes of international air freight supply has already been sent to Beira, and an increasing supply operation is scaling up.

MSF's response to Cyclone Idai >

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Mozambique: Key info

Despite ambitious plans to roll out ‘test and start’ to provide immediate treatment to everyone diagnosed with HIV, Mozambique is struggling to respond to an epidemic now affecting around 13 per cent of people aged 15-49.

In Maputo, we provide care for HIV patients who need second- or third-line antiretroviral (ARV) treatment and treatment for co-infections such as Kaposi’s sarcoma, drug-resistant TB and hepatitis.

We work with community treatment groups in Tete, and are working to improve diagnosis, treatment and continuity of care in Maputo and Beira.

Our teams in Tete and Beira provide sexual and reproductive health services, including HIV testing and treatment for vulnerable and stigmatised groups, such as sex workers and men who have sex with men (MSM), as part of MSF’s transnational ‘corridor’ project along transport routes between Malawi and Mozambique.