Cyclone Freddy, which claimed more than four hundred lives in southern Africa, affected more than half a million people in Malawi. The country, among the poorest in the world, now faces the risk of a humanitarian crisis, according to the United Nations, which gave the alert on Friday March 17. In six days, the equivalent of six months of rain fell on the south of the country, causing floods and landslides.
Freddy got “reduced in an area of low pressure and completely dissipated on March 15”said the local office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs of the United Nations, in a situation update. “More than 500,000 people have been affected since March 12”according to the office, and more than 183,000 people – out of a population of nearly 20 million – are homeless.
Some 300 emergency shelters have been opened, but the destruction is still limiting access for humanitarian teams and making aid difficult, the World Food Program (WFP) said in a statement.
280,000 children urgently need humanitarian aid
Cyclone Freddy, with exceptional longevity, caused 326 deaths in Malawi. It also killed 86 people in Mozambique, according to a latest report on Friday, and seventeen in Madagascar. Formed in early February off Australia, the cyclone, which made an unprecedented crossing of more than 8,000 kilometers from east to west in the Indian Ocean, is on the way to being classified as the longest on record.
In Malawi, more than 280,000 children are in urgent need of humanitarian aid, UNICEF spokeswoman Fungma Fudong warned. “There is a risk that the current cholera epidemic will worsen, with children being the most vulnerable to this crisis”she added.
A state of disaster has been declared in the country, the police and the army are deployed. President Lazarus Chakwera appealed for international help. “The country will need significant support”underlined the director of the WFP in Malawi, Paul Turnbull, who promised a mobilization as fast as possible.
South Africa lends a hand to the rescue teams, the United Kingdom must also send reinforcements. Neighboring Zambia has sent food and tents, according to a statement from the defense minister.