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Cyclone Idai and flooding in Mozambique and southern Africa

MSF emergency teams are working in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe

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 been averted. An emergency vaccination campaign has been carried out by the Ministry of Health with the support of MSF.

One month after the cyclone struck, many health centres, schools and other services have re-opened. However there are still huge needs in terms of food and shelter with over 160,000 people still living in accommodation centres and camps after being displaced from their homes.

When an emergency breaks – such as the current situation in southern Africa – we can respond immediately. This is thanks to our supporters giving unrestricted funds.


Unrestricted funding means there is no delay in mobilising, no waiting for government funds to be released and no lag as donation appeals are launched; we can act immediately and then replenish this fund with new donations in preparation for the next emergency.

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Voice from mozambique

Gert Verdonck, MSF emergency coordinator, 27 March 

“Given the sheer amount of water that passed through Beira during Cyclone Idai and the volume of damage caused, it’s not surprising that there are outbreaks of waterborne diseases like cholera in the city.

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"MSF is already supporting the Ministry of Health to care for patients suspected of suffering from cholera in three health centres of Beira and has so far been treating more than 200 patients a day.

"In the coming days we will work alongside the Ministry of Health to scale up as much as possible and provide support to more cholera treatment units as well as work to rehabilitate a larger cholera treatment centre.

"We have cargo planes arriving daily with the supplies we need and are also flying in experienced medical and logistical staff members from our projects in Mozambique and around the world.

"We are also in discussion with the health ministry about supporting a large cholera vaccination campaign in the area.”

Crisis info 12 APRIL


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.

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One month after the cyclone, 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.

Cholera outbreak

Our cholera response, in support of the Ministry of Health, was very quick – as quick as could realistically be considered 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.

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.

In Beira, we have begun to scale down cholera treatment activities and are moving from three purpose-built cholera treatment centres to just the one operated in partnership with the Ministry of Health. This is in line with the drop in the number of cases.

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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 and when MSF staff were pulled into the 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.

Clean water

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.

So, to compliment 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.

Aida Joao, an MSF health promotor, cares for a child with a suspected case of pneumonia from the slum of Praia Nova to the Health Centre of Punta Gea.

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 more than nearly 1,000 staff in the flood-affected disaster area:

  • 120 Mozambican staff who worked with MSF already in Beira before the cyclone
  • Over 700 newly-recruited Mozambican staff specifically for this emergency response, and more being recruited daily
  • More than 190 international staff from countries in the region and worldwide

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


Cyclone Idai hit Chimanimani district in Manicaland Province after crossing through Mozambique.

The death toll currently stands at 181 with 330 people missing and nearly 22,000 people displaced.

Several bridges and whole roads have been washed away, or remain blocked by rock falls, leaving some communities reachable by foot only. Many have been left without homes or livelihoods and access to safe drinking water is a major issue.

An MSF team travel by foot to access a village cut off by Cylone Idai in Chimanimani, Zimbabwe.

In Zimbabwe, an MSF team of 10 people is supporting ministry of health staff in Chimanimani with patient management, and helping to maintain supplies of essential medications. 

Our teams are conducting assessments, delivering relief items, medical treatment and materials, and rolling out water and sanitation activities to prevent outbreaks of water borne diseases.

Two MSF mobile teams are trying to reach 15 of the worst affected health centres and settlements in Chimanimani to assess health needs and distribute medicines to clinics and village health workers.

Our teams remain concerned about water and sanitation needs to prevent outbreaks of water borne diseases, and the longer medical needs of many HIV, TB and chronic disease patients who are now without treatment.


Malawi had experienced heavy rain since the start of March. Coupled with Cyclone Idai, flooding has now affected the majority of Nsanje district in southern Malawi, with around 16,000 households affected.

MSF and local authorities work together at Chikali primary school in Makhanga, Malawi, to distribute basic non-food items to the community.
Flooding has caused 59 deaths to date, with 677 injuries, and the displacement of around 87,000 people in camps overall.

While many thousands of people are currently sheltering in schools, churches and makeshift camps for displaced people, some are starting to return home to rebuild their houses.

There has been widespread destruction of agriculture and animals – with major food shortages anticipated.

An MSF team of 18 people is supporting the health ministry to cover the needs of an estimated 18,000 people in Makhanga on the eastern bank of the Shire river, with health, sanitation and non-food-item supplies.

MSF teams are conducting assessments, delivering relief items, medical treatment and materials, and rolling out water and sanitation activities to prevent outbreaks of water borne diseases.

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