Beyond Cyclone Idai

Cyclone Idai, which hit Southern Africa in March this year, was one of the worst weather-related disasters to ever affect the Southern hemisphere. More than 900 people lost their lives across Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe and over 1.7 million people were affected and in need of immediate aid. In the weeks that followed, there were several cases of cholera and people faced a severe need for sanitation, shelter, food and general relief.

Various members of the Xavier Network launched Cyclone Idai appeals. Jesuit Missions UK appeal alone has raised over £100,000 to support the long-term rehabilitation process. In the immediate aftermath of the cyclone, food aid was distributed to those in need. Members of the Xavier Network, together with local Jesuits in Southern Africa are a part of a project called Beyond Cyclone Idai. Together they will formulate a long-term plan of recovery and rehabilitation.

There have been three priority areas identified: infrastructure, such as rebuilding schools, churches and residential areas, livelihoods and skills training, and food aid.

Fr Moyo SJ, Director of Silveira House in Zimbabwe said, “This was not a natural disaster but a human disaster”. He pointed out that similar disasters in the western world do not have such a devastating affect due to the standard of infrastructure and sanitary provisions. This has led to a series of discussions about the primary sectors which need addressing. Project coordinator at Silveira House, Zimbabwe Ms Ennie Chiramba says, “We want to help people to learn protocols for cyclones and to have an environmental disaster plan in place so that people are prepared should there be another similar disaster in the future.”

In Zimbabwe, the worst affected areas were Chimanimani and Chipinge, of which 48% of the population are under the age of 18. Psycho-social support is hugely important in the recovery of children after such a disaster, many of whom have now lost their parents. Fourteen-year-old Ropafadzo said, “I had never seen a dead person. I have now seen many and the images keep coming to me each time I close my eyes. I don’t think I will ever be comfortable with rains anymore in my life. I don’t think I will ever forget this disaster.”

As well as this support, the Jesuits in Zimbabwe are supporting the affected communities in the Chipinge district by improving access to safe and clean water, access to safe sanitation facilities and increased adoption of positive behavioural change of health and hygiene practises.

Shannon Philip, International Programmes Officer at Jesuit Missions UK, says “Thank you to everyone who has so generously supported Jesuit Missions Cyclone Idai appeal. We will continue to work closely with the Beyond Cyclone Idai Project as the people of Southern Africa rebuild their lives.”