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Cyclone Idai one year on: Southern Africa food crisis threatening to derail recovery

Cyclone Idai one year on: Southern Africa food crisis threatening to derail recovery

The food crisis sweeping Southern Africa is threatening to derail recovery for countries devastated by Cyclone Idai, warns child rights and humanitarian organisation Plan International.

One year on since the cyclone tore through parts of Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi, more than 2 million people remain affected. The weather system, that first made landfall on 14 March 2019, caused widespread flooding and landslides that destroyed households, roads, farmlands and crops. More than 100,000 people are still living in temporary shelters.

Struggling to make a recovery, the communities in the affected countries with fragile systems, are now faced with the additional challenge of coping with the food crisis. Over 15 million people across 11 nations in the region are currently impacted by food insecurity.

Charles Businge, Plan International’s Southern Africa Director, said: “Most of the families displaced by Cyclone Idai are still living in temporary shelters and are yet to fully return to their normal lives. While initial efforts have focused on setting up semi-permanent homes, there is now a more urgent need of providing communities with food instead. Impact of the cyclone compounded by the food crisis is posing serious protection and health risks for families, especially girls.”

Plan International has been responding to Cyclone Idai for the past year and has been supporting communities to get back on their feet. The organisation, in coordination with the national governments, local partners and other humanitarian organisations has accelerated the pace of reconstructing damaged infrastructure ahead of the rainy season.

The food crisis, however, is threatening to derail recovery and girls and young women are bearing a significant brunt of the disaster. They face an increased risk of violence due to their age and gender. There have been reports across the region of families increasingly resorting to early and forced child marriage – mostly impacting adolescent girls. Girls are also being pushed into child labour as families struggle for survival.

Stuart Katwikirize, Plan International’s Regional Disaster Risk Manager, said: “Girls are disproportionately affected in disasters and emergencies and face unique challenges. They are exposed to specific risks due to their age and gender. Existing gender inequalities and exclusion factors mean they are more likely to drop out of school, experience child labour or gender-based violence, impacting both their wellbeing and their future prospects.”

Plan International is calling on the international community to provide new funding to enable humanitarian agencies to respond to those in most urgent need as a result of Cyclone Idai.

“In addition to life-saving humanitarian action, increased investment in resilience building and alternative livelihoods is critical to address the root causes of the rising needs in Southern Africa. All efforts to tackle both the impact of Cyclone Idai and the region’s food crisis must also consider the specific needs of adolescent girls and young women. Girls’ safety and wellbeing, menstrual hygiene management and education must be prioritised,” said Businge.