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Oxfam responded with clean water, sanitation services and other life-saving aid in the aftermath of two deadly Cyclones.
Cyclone Idai tore through southern Africa and devastated Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe on March 14 & 15, 2019. Just weeks after, a second devastating cyclone hit on April 25 putting more lives at risk from catastrophic flooding.
More than a thousand people were feared to be dead, thousands more missing, and up to 2.6 million people were affected and in desperate need of humanitarian aid.
Massive flood waters destroyed homes, hospitals, schools, farms and agricultural land, damaging roads and washing away bridges. Thousands of people were isolated in difficult-to-reach areas, some only accessible by helicopter or boat. Hundreds of thousands of people were displaced following the cyclones. They have gathered in transit camps, with little or no access to clean drinking water or sanitation services, heightening the risk of water-borne diseases. The threat of a cholera epidemic was high.
What Oxfam Is Doing
Despite huge access and logistical challenges, Oxfam teams worked around the clock to assess the needs and deliver aid to those worst affected. In coordination with local partners, we planned to reach up to 775,000 people across the three countries with clean water, sanitation services, food and emergency shelters.
Our response was focused on the unique needs of women (75,000 of whom were pregnant), providing water and sanitation, and stopping the spread of deadly diseases such as cholera and malaria. Activities included:
- water trucking to households without clean and safe water plus using mobile water treatment plants to provide clean water and emergency toilets on a huge scale.
- providing temporary latrines with hand washing facilities
- distributing family kits, each includes 2 blankets, a 10 litre bucket, 2 mosquito nets, 1 jerry can, 8 spoons and 2 cloth wrappers and water purification tablets.
- distributing buckets, water bladders and hygiene kits that contain soaps, jerry cans and menstrual hygiene items
- training up volunteers to increase hygiene awareness and deliver key messaging to communities
- Distributing cash grants so people could buy the food they need and begin re-establishing their lives.
- Participating in programs to restore basic social services, including access to healthcare, education and long-term water resources
- Prioritizing safety in our interventions to allow women the opportunity for meaningful participation in decision-making processes, such as the location of bathing facilities and latrines, approaches to lighting and the upkeep of hygiene facilities.
Disasters don’t affect everyone equally. Often it is the poorest and most vulnerable people who get left behind and suffer the most. In cities like Beira, Mozambique, the poorest people live in flimsy tin shacks and in areas more susceptible to floods; richer people have houses with concrete walls, stronger roofs and on higher ground. Poverty intersects with race, gender and with ethnicity to create greater vulnerability.
Oxfam worked to ensure that inequality wasn’t exacerbated because of this disaster. We worked with other agencies to assess, prioritize and access people who are poorest and most vulnerable in our responses, specifically women. And we’ll continue to lobby governments, not only for more aid and resources, but also for good public policies like universal social protection and universal health coverage to help countries and communities build back stronger.