Thousands of children in need of urgent humanitarian assistance – UNICEF

Mtshabezi River Bridge flooded yesterday
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LILONGWE/MAPUTO/HARARE/NAIROBI/NEW YORK, – Almost 850,000 people – around half of whom are estimated to be children – have been affected by severe flooding in Malawi and Mozambique, with the numbers set to rise as Cyclone Idai moves west and the impact of the cyclone becomes clearer, UNICEF warned today.

The tropical cyclone, which is carrying heavy rains and winds of up to 170km/h (106mp/h) made landfall at the port of Beira, Mozambique’s fourth largest city, on Thursday night, leaving the 500,000 residents without power and communications lines down. Across Mozambique, initial government figures estimate 600,000 people are affected of which 260,000 are children.

“Hundreds of thousands of children have already seen their lives turned upside down by the devastating floods, and now Cyclone Idai has brought further suffering to families in its path,” said UNICEF Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa, Leila Pakkala. “Many children will have lost their homes, schools, hospitals and even friends and loved ones. UNICEF is on the ground working in close coordination with respective governments and humanitarian partners from three countries to scale up our response and respond to the immediate needs of affected children and their families.”

The cyclone moved across Mozambique to Zimbabwe over the weekend. Nearly 1.6 million people are estimated to live in areas that could be impacted by high winds and rainfall.

While the full extent of the cyclone’s impact is not yet clear, it is likely to include damage to schools and health facilities; damage to water and sanitation infrastructure; impeding access to safe water for affected communities; thereby bringing a heightened risk of water-borne diseases, destruction of people’s homes, and increased protection risks, particularly for women and children.

Since early March, flooding caused by the Tropical Cyclone Idai weather system has affected more than one million people and caused at least 145 deaths.

In Malawi, more than 922,900 people have been impacted in 14 affected districts – including an estimated 460,000 children – according to government figures, with 56 deaths and 577 injuries recorded. The approaching cyclone could complicate the humanitarian response, as access to vulnerable communities is already limited and could be further constrained by rising flood waters. With thousands forced out their flooded homes, many families lack basic supplies including food, water and sanitation facilities. The floods have also disrupted learning for thousands of children.

In Zimbabwe, early estimates from government sources in Chimanimani District in Manicaland, put the numbers affected by the cyclone as approximately 1,600 households (8,000 people), with 23 deaths and 71 people reported missing. There are unofficial reports of children affected by flooding, mudslides and rock-falls in Chimanimani.

UNICEF is working with partners to support the Governments of the affected countries to provide life-saving interventions to meet the needs of children and women impacted by the cyclone and floods. The response will include Health, with a focus on cholera response and prevention; Education, to minimize service disruption and enhancing safe access to schools; Protection, catering particularly to the needs of internally displaced persons (IDPs); WASH, to ensure access to clean and safe water, increased use of sanitation facilities and hygiene promotion and; Nutrition, focusing on preventing under-five mortality attributable to malnutrition.

UNICEF is appealing for US$ 20.3 million to support the response in the three affected countries.