While much of the world was focused on battling COVID-19 last week, a powerful tropical cyclone swept through the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji, and Tonga, causing significant damage and loss of life.
With gusts over 170mph and rainfall of 250-450mm, Tropical Cyclone Harold was the worse storm to hit Vanuatu since Cyclone Pam in 2015, and, in some areas, damage has been significantly worse. Entire villages are reported to have been destroyed in the northern parts of the island chain.
In addition to the devastation caused by the storm, social distancing measures had to be temporarily lifted in some areas to enable people to gather in emergency shelters, and this may exacerbate the impacts of COVID-19 in the region. Furthermore, the crisis is largely remaining under the radar, given the ongoing pandemic, meaning little funding is being made available to assist the affected islands, despite tremendous need. What international aid there is has been hampered and delayed by the virus.
MapAction is already delivering support to the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in the Asia Pacific region (ROAP) to help the regional COVID-19 response. We have diverted some of this effort to respond to the emergency caused by Cyclone Harold, creating situation maps for Fiji and Tonga. These are helping humanitarian teams prioritise and coordinate aid. We will continue to provide assistance as needed.
MapAction volunteer Andreas Buchholz has just returned from Beira, Mozambique. He has put together the short video below, which gives a good sense of the scale and urgency of the international response to this major disaster.
floodwaters have begun to recede, the situation is still very serious in large
parts of Mozambique and surrounding countries. Damage to homes and livelihoods
is extensive and lack of access to clean water is causing outbreaks of diseases
such as cholera.
MapAction has been working closely with the government of Mozambique, NGOs, the UN and Red Cross teams at the heart of the response and our help has been widely appreciated. The aerial assessment maps shown in the video have so far been printed over two thousand times and used to support search and rescue and the distribution of foodstuffs. The maps were created by the MapAction team in Mozambique with close collaboration with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) and Save the Children.
At the time of writing, MapAction personnel are continuing to work at the On-Site Operations Coordination Centre in Beira, Mozambique.
We are grateful to everyone that has donated to our Cyclone Idai appeal, to the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) and to the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs for funding this life-saving work.