Responding to natural disasters

Aerial view of Buzi, Mozambique, and the devastation caused by Cylone Idai in spring 2019.
Mozambique 2019 © Pablo Garrigos/MSF
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On the night of March 14, 2019, Cyclone Idai struck the southeastern coast of Africa, causing catastrophic flooding and leaving hundreds of thousands of people cut off from health care and other essential services. Across Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Malawi rivers broke their banks, homes collapsed, and high winds and waters resulted in the deaths of hundreds of people and the displacement of thousands more. Wind and flooding rendered roads and bridges impassible, knocked out power to vast swathes of all three countries, and destroyed or disabled crucial health and sanitation infrastructure.

Mozambique was the country hardest hit. Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) immediately launched an emergency response to address the massive needs, working with the Ministry of Health to rehabilitate damaged facilities, running mobile clinics to reach people cut off from aid, shipping more than 100 tons of medical and logistical supplies, and responding to outbreaks of cholera.

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Emergency response in Nhamatanda district
Women walk through floodwaters in Mozambique’s Nhamatanda district. In the aftermath of Cyclone Idai, one of the greatest challenges facing people affected by the storm was access to safe, clean water. MSF responded with water and sanitation services, in addition to both medical and non-medical assistance.
Mozambique 2019 © Mohammad Ghannam/MSF
Mobile clinic in Inhamissua and Nhasassa
The nurse Cecília Passarinho Chigarisso Armando talks to a patient in a MSF’s mobile clinic in Inhamizua neighborhood.
Mozambique 2019 © Giuseppe La Rosa/MSF

Cyclone Idai was also the first time a major natural disaster hit a country with one of the highest HIV prevalence rates in the world: In Beira, Mozambique’s third-largest city and one of those worst-affected by the storm, one in six adults is HIV-positive. In the days and weeks following the cyclone MSF’s longrunning HIV projects in the region scrambled to return to full capacity. It took almost a month before our full HIV program in Beira—which includes night clinics for sex workers—was back up and running.

NFI distribution in Mozambique.
An MSF team prepares to unload relief items from a boat in a remote area of Mozambique’s Dondo district.
Mozambique 2019 © Giuseppe La Rosa/MSF
MSF response in Buzi - April 2019
A woman in the Macurungo neighborhood of Buzi, Mozambique, carries a box of water purification solution. Because of the risk of waterborne diseases spread by flooding in the wake of Cyclone Idai, MSF distributed soap and chlorine solution to some 4,000 families in affected communities.
Mozambique 2019 © Pablo Garrigos/MSF

Less than six weeks after Cyclone Idai ripped through the region, Cyclone Kenneth hit the coast of Cabo Delgado province in northern Mozambique. It was the first time in recorded history that two cyclones hit Mozambique in a single season. UN officials warned that these back-to-back disasters should serve as a warning to prepare for more extreme weather events related to climate change. MSF teams responded immediately, fighting an outbreak of cholera and monitoring other health needs. As Mozambique is still on the long road to recovery, our teams continue to run projects throughout the country, fighting HIV, tuberculosis, and hepatitis C and providing sexual and reproductive health services to women and girls.

Distribution of NFI in remote areas
A woman is marked to indicate she has received her package of non-food relief items, including soap and blankets, at an MSF distribution.
Mozambique © Giuseppe La Rosa/MSF