As a result of the catastrophic flooding in southeastern Africa wrought by Cyclone Idai, the disaster areas are in dire need of food supplies, clean water, safe shelter, and anti-epidemic drugs. Since 11th March 2019, emergency relief operations have been successively launched by Tzu Chi in Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, where rice, blankets, survival kits, water purification liquid, mosquito nets and anti-epidemic drugs are distributed to the disaster victims.
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the National Disaster Management Institute of Mozambique (INGC), as of March 2019, a few million people have been affected by Cyclone Idai, and the death toll is still on the rise, along with the estimated damage. In addition to the shortage of food, drinking water and shelter in the disaster areas, Mozambique has reported an outbreak of cholera and officially requested for international assistance.
In Malawi, Tzu Chi volunteers have been distributing cornmeal and assisting in the rebuilding of the homes of cyclone victims in the community of Ching'ombe. In Mozambique, Tzu Chi volunteers travelled to Beira, the Mozambican city hardest hit by the storm, to conduct disaster assessment. They saw that numerous homes and crops had been destroyed by the floods.
At a relief shelter, the volunteers witnessed how a group of 44 cyclone survivors were given only a cup of beans a day to be shared among themselves. The volunteers proceeded to visit other disaster relief shelters, where they also discovered that each group of a few dozen people were only given a single cup of beans or cornmeal each day. There were even families that received only a cup of grains that was supposed to last them for a week, regardless of the number of people in each family.
In Zimbabwe, the torrents of a surging river broke a bridge and landslides buried whole villages. Disaster survivors walked barefoot on a makeshift wooden bridge to return to their hometown to search for their missing family members. One surviving villager said to some Tzu Chi volunteers, "Even if what I could find were the dead bodies of my loved ones, at least I could give them a proper burial so that they could rest in peace.”
Aid from Taiwan arrives in Africa
On 28th March 2019, disaster-stricken central Mozambique received the first shipment of relief rice from Tzu Chi Taiwan. Two days later, Tzu Chi volunteers conducted its first aid distribution in the town of Dombe, benefitting 144 households (totaling 1,213 residents) in a village.
Most of the houses in the village have been destroyed by the storm. The death toll is estimated at 119 with many still missing. When the local chieftain saw the arrival of the rice shipment from Taiwan, he was deeply moved, and said that it was the first supply of aid they had received in the disaster aftermath.
As the lack of clean water has led to the outbreak of cholera and malaria in the disaster zones in Mozambique, the survival kits distributed by Tzu Chi at the end of March included water purification liquid, cleaning supplies, and mosquito nets.
As the volunteers handed out aid supplies to the disaster victims under the scorching sun, they witnessed strength and resilience in the latter. The villagers were also served cool drinking water by the volunteers onsite.
With a spirit of great compassion for the suffering, Tzu Chi volunteers in Africa had personally travelled to the disaster areas to assess the disaster situation and reported their findings to Tzu Chi’s headquarters in Hualien, Taiwan.
On 2nd April 2019, Tzu Chi's headquarters in Taiwan dispatched a team of staff to Africa to join the local volunteers in the relief work and to further assess the needs of the disasters victims.
Many of the Tzu Chi volunteers in Africa are from South Africa. Although they have to travel more than 2,000 kilometers to help cyclone-stricken towns and villages recover, they are undaunted by the arduous journey and continue to provide care and assistance to the disaster survivors. Tzu Chi is also planning for mid- and long-term relief efforts in the disaster areas.
To support Tzu Chi’s relief operations in Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Mozambique, click here to make a donation：www.tzuchi.org.sg/en/fundraising/send-love-to-africa/