Bringing a nation together: impacts of Cyclone Idai in Zimbabwe

Rochelle VanderHelm—Staff Writer


Photo from World Health Organization

Cyclone Idai made landfall in Mozambique on Friday, March 15, before chewing its way into Zimbabwe and southern Malawi, causing unprecedented destruction. ReliefWeb posted frequent updates over the duration of the cyclone.

In Mozambique on March 21– “At least 242 people have died and more than 1,400 have been injured in the aftermath of the Cyclone Idai…The death toll is expected to continue to rise in the days ahead.”

On the 26th – “The official death toll rose…to some 468 deaths as of 26 March, with more than 1,500 people injured.”

Now the cyclone has dissipated, but cholera outbreaks are increasingly concerning. On March 28, the first cases of cholera were confirmed by the World Health Organization (WHO). Since then, 11 cholera treatment facilities have been established, along with measures to prevent malaria. All in all, an estimated 1.8 million people in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe need humanitarian assistance, with pregnant women giving birth on dirt floors and at least 91,000 homes destroyed in Mozambique alone.

Cyclone Idai was the worst natural disaster to plague Africa in many years. The last major cyclone in the Southern Hemisphere was Cyclone Flores in the 70s.

Kim and Stephen Marques are Dordt students from Zimbabwe. Kim Marques first heard about it when her friend called her, saying, “Hey, I just heard about the cyclone. How’s your family?”

Marques didn’t know. But she googled it and soon found out. She hadn’t heard from her family back home at that point.

“I just went with, ‘no news is good news.’ It was the strangest thing at first,” Marques said.

The Marques family is alright, only experiencing heavy rains from the cyclone, but many others in Zimbabwe are still struggling. Despite the suffering, Zimbabweans have used the disaster to come together.

“It’s been amazing to see the mobilization of the nation, especially through the church,” Stephen Marques said. The disaster has brought out many stories of people sacrificing their own livelihood for their neighbors. One such story, which has gone viral, tells of a 71-year-old woman who walked several miles to Highland Presbyterian Church with a load of clothes to help with cyclone recovery. Those clothes were her only source of income.

In recent years, Zimbabwe has suffered through a time of political unrest. According to Kim Marques, Zimbabwean politics has been the military versus the people for a very long time. She thinks the cyclone has given the people of Zimbabwe a way to help each other. They feel like they can do something, instead of being the victims again. Although Cyclone Idai has devastated many lives and displaced many people, Zimbabwe has pulled together under the stress of flood, wind and rain.

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