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Red Cross and civil society movements in SA appeal for aid for Idai victims

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A man stands on a bridge on the Umvumvu River that was washed away by Cyclone Idai in Chimanimani, Zimbabwe. Image: REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

Civil society movements led by Red Cross South Africa and the South African Council of Churches (SACC) have made an urgent appeal for aid for victims of Cyclone Idai that recently battered Malawi, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe.

Tropical Cyclone Idai struck on March 11 and is said to be the deadliest storm to hit Mozambique in the last 30 years, according to AccuWeather research.

There are few signs of government assistance in the affected communities, which lack basic amenities like clean water, roads, and electricity despite their key role in feeding the country. The floods have further worsened conditions.

598 people have been killed by Cyclone Idai in Mozambique so far, with officials saying that the death toll is a temporary number and that the actual figure may never be known; it’s possible some people were washed away or quickly buried in the throes of the storm. Idai also killed at least 259 people in neighbouring Zimbabwe and at least 56 in Malawi, officials have said.

Cyclone Idai has left more than a million facing imminent food shortages. The UN estimates that 1.85 million people are in urgent need of emergency humanitarian assistance.

“We are partnering with the churches because this is a disaster that will require the highest level of mobilization possible, and churches have that footprint and goodwill,” said Red Cross South Africa CEO Lindel Papiyah.

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent teams providing an emergency sanitation unit ready to support 20,000 people a day.

Bishop Mpumlwana of SACC said the collaboration is a long-term effort to assist the neighbouring countries.

“We know that many more people will die from disease resulting from this tragedy,” said Mpumlwana, “far more than those lives taken by the cyclone itself. Human lives will need to recalibrate in the new reality, including dealing with hundreds of children orphaned in this disaster.

“This is an urgent but long-term joint effort by us as churches and civil society to help our neighbours that will require consistency of commitment.”

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