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Cyclone Idai

Volume 657: debated on Tuesday 26 March 2019

Cyclone Idai, one of the most severe cyclones ever to hit southern Africa, has devastated parts of Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe, including many areas that were already affected by severe flooding. The UN estimates that over 2.6 million people have been affected across the three countries. The majority of them are in Mozambique—the country hardest hit by the disaster—where approximately 129,000 people are sheltering in accommodation centres, and where the UN estimates that 1.85 million people are in need of assistance. In Malawi, 87,000 people have been displaced. In Zimbabwe, initial UN figures estimate that 80,000 people have lost their homes entirely. On 25 March, the UN launched a $281.7 million funding appeal for the response in Mozambique.

The UK Government have made £22 million in aid available for the response to date, which is being led by the Governments of the affected countries and the UN. Some £18 million of this is in direct support to the response in the three affected countries and up to £4 million will be used to match the public’s generous contributions to the disaster emergency committee’s cyclone Idai appeal.

In expectation of the extreme weather, DFID-funded partner organisations pre-positioned essential supplies such as hygiene kits and medical supplies. UK aid funding is being used to send life-saving relief supplies and equipment, including 7,550 shelter kits and 100 family tents which are now in use in Mozambique. Following an assessment of need, further supplies are being flown into Mozambique on a charter aircraft from Doncaster Sheffield airport and an RAF A400M Atlas aircraft, which arrived in Mozambique on 26 March.

UK aid is also supporting the World Food Programme (WFP) to feed 400,000 people in the immediate aftermath of the cyclone through the distribution of emergency food and food vouchers. DFID has deployed 12 humanitarian experts to Mozambique, where they are assisting with the co-ordination of the international response. In addition, specialists in food security, nutrition, and water, sanitation, and hygiene from DFID’s Mozambique office are travelling to the affected area. A five-person UK medical assessment and co-ordination team also arrived in Mozambique on 25 March. The team will conduct a scoping visit to Beira and Chimoio this week to assess how the UK can assist in supporting emergency medical and health needs in affected areas. Four further logisticians, in addition to the three already on the ground, are due to arrive in Mozambique on 27 March, and DFID have contracted two airport handling operations experts to provide training to staff at Beira airport.

In Malawi, the UK’s package of emergency support is funding shelter, food assistance, health, and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). These will be delivered through the World Food Programme, UNICEF, and the Red Cross. The funding will target the most affected areas of Phalombe, Nsanje, and Chikwawa. Some 65,000 people will be provided with emergency shelter, 150,000 people will receive food assistance for two months, 250,000 people will be provided with WASH support and 130,000 people will be helped to access health services.

In Zimbabwe, UK aid funding has been provided for health, WASH, and child protection assistance in the worst-affected areas, including Chimanimani. DFID is also supporting the immediate provision of emergency latrines and sanitation equipment. DFID is working with leading flooding experts at the Universities of Bristol and Reading, as well as the European centre for medium-range weather forecasts, to forecast how the extent and impact of the floods might change up to 10 days in advance. With more heavy rains forecast over the coming days, and bad weather and access already posing challenges for those on the ground, this allows aid workers to plan ahead and prioritise their resources.

The UK is currently the largest bilateral donor to the response. The UN has allocated $20 million in funding from its central emergency response fund (CERF), to which the UK was the largest donor last year. In addition, the European Commission is providing €3.5 million in support, and a number of other donors have also made contributions. I am in touch with international counterparts to encourage others to contribute and ensure that sufficient funding is made available. Last week, I spoke with both Sir Mark Lowcock, the UN’s emergency relief co-ordinator, and Dr Tedros Adhanom Gebreyesus of the World Health Organisation and called on them to ensure that the UN mobilises quickly and effectively. Along with the Minister of State for Africa, I will be speaking with other senior figures and ministers from other donor countries in the coming days to encourage them to contribute to the international response.

Her Majesty the Queen, the Prince of Wales, and I have written to the Heads of State and Foreign Ministers of the affected countries to express condolences and to offer our support and expertise in disaster response.

The UK’s response to the cyclone is a whole-of-government effort both in the affected countries and in the UK. My Department has the overall lead on the response, with support from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Cabinet Office, the Ministry of Defence, the Department for Health and Social Care, and Public Health England. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has provided consular assistance to the small number of British nationals in the affected area and has updated its travel advice to advise against all but essential travel to the affected areas in Mozambique. We continue to monitor the situation closely and stand ready to deploy further support should it be required.