5 Ways the U.S. is Responding to Cyclone Idai

Cyclone Idai devastated parts of Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe. Photo credit: Adrien Barbier, AFP

On March 15, Tropical Cyclone Idai — the worst natural disaster to hit southern Africa in two decades — made landfall over Mozambique, producing torrential rains and strong winds across the country, as well as in neighboring Malawi and Zimbabwe. The cyclone caused catastrophic flooding, which has killed hundreds of people so far, and damaged or destroyed homes, farmland, and public infrastructure — including major roadways, bridges, and hospitals.

Map courtesy of NASA

The cyclone hit areas that were already reeling from flooding that occurred earlier this month, heightening existing humanitarian needs and leaving nearly 1.9 million people in need of assistance.

Here are five ways the United States is helping people affected by Cyclone Idai:

1. Sending a USAID Disaster Team

On March 20, USAID deployed a Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) to Mozambique to coordinate U.S. response efforts, conduct damage assessments, identify priority needs, and work closely with local authorities and humanitarian organizations to provide critical assistance to people in need.

At its height, this elite team comprised 17 members, including logisticians, as well as experts in shelter, health, food security, and water, sanitation, and hygiene.

USAID deployed a Disaster Assistance Response Team to lead the U.S. humanitarian response efforts. Photos courtesy: USAID/OFDA

2. Providing U.S. Military Support

On March 27, at the request of USAID, the U.S. military—in coordination with the Government of Mozambique — commenced air operations to deliver humanitarian assistance to communities affected by Cyclone Idai. USAID had requested the unique capabilities of the U.S. military to provide transportation and logistics assistance.

The Department of Defense U.S. Africa Command deployed military cargo aircraft to support the USAID-led response by delivering relief supplies to hard-to-reach areas and allowing the DART to conduct aerial damage assessments to help identify the most affected areas and the most critical needs.

U.S. military aircraft assist the USAID-led response by airlifting critical commodities — like food, shelter kits, and vehicles — to hard-to-reach areas. Photos courtesy: Tech. Sgt. Chris Hibben, U.S. Air Force (top) and U.S. Embassy Maputo (bottom)

The U.S. Department of Defense also deployed the 435th Contingency Response Group, along with cargo handling equipment, to help expedite the flow of relief supplies. This technical team is working closely with USAID and the Government of Mozambique at the airports in Maputo and Chimoio to ensure that aid is delivered quickly to people in need. They are providing 24-hour support for receiving and packaging aid.

U.S. military members help transport food assistance provided by USAID. Photos courtesy: Staff Sgt. Corban Lundborg, U.S. Air Force

3. Airlifting Relief Supplies

USAID’s DART conducted assessments in Beira and confirmed that shelter is a priority need. In addition, there is very limited access to safe drinking water, and a severe lack of hygiene supplies.

In response, USAID is airlifting critical commodities — including two water treatment units, water containers, heavy-duty plastic sheeting, shelter toolkits, blankets, kitchen sets, and hygiene supplies — to Mozambique from our emergency warehouses in Dubai and Pisa. USAID will work with the U.S. military and partners on the ground to distribute relief supplies to people impacted by the Cyclone.

USAID is airlifting critical relief supplies to Mozambique. Photos courtesy: USAID

4. Supporting Humanitarian Programs

To help people who have lost everything, we’re working with our UN and NGO partners to deliver lifesaving aid to those most in need. This includes partnering with World Vision to provide emergency shelter, as well as water, sanitation, and hygiene programs; and the International Organization for Migration to provide shelter kits.

USAID is working with World Vision to distribute critical relief supplies to people affected by Cyclone Idai. Photo courtesy: World Vision

Because women and children tend to be particularly vulnerable in the aftermath of a natural disaster, USAID is working with CARE to provide relief supplies specifically for women and girls. This includes hygiene kits containing sanitary napkins, soap, buckets, and toothbrushes.

To meet growing food needs in Mozambique, USAID is working with the World Food Program to provide enough food for nearly 1.5 million people. This includes delivering more than 19,000 metric tons of rice, peas, fortified cereal and vegetable oil, as well as food vouchers so that families can purchase food in local markets.

USAID DART Leader Sureka helps distribute emergency food aid to people in need. USAID is working with the World Food Program (WFP) to meet the food needs of nearly 1.5 million people. Photos credit: USAID (L) and Rein Skullerud, WFP (R)

5. Preparing Before Disaster Strikes

USAID also works year round to reduce the impact of disasters by helping communities become more self-reliant. One of the first search and rescue teams on the ground in Mozambique was Rescue South Africa, a team that USAID has helped train for years.

For people who are trapped after a disaster, every minute counts, and having national and regional teams that can respond quickly is critical.

The Rescue South Africa urban search and rescue team is not only self-reliant, but are also helping others in the region. Photo credit: Rescue South Africa

The United States stands by everyone who has been affected by this disaster, and will continue our work to save lives, alleviate suffering, and help people recover.

Fourteen-year-old Adolino and his family are sheltering in a school after their home was torn apart by Cyclone Idai. Photo credit: World Vision UK

Read more about USAID’s humanitarian response to Cyclone Idai. For ways to help people affected by the disaster, visit USAID’s Center for International Disaster Information.

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