Cyclone Freddy: Heartbreak in Southern Africa
In early February, Cyclone Freddy developed off the coast of Australia then traveled almost 5,000 miles across the Indian Ocean, making landfall twice in south-east Africa. Freddy brought torrential rains and high winds that resulted in landslides and flooding that claimed the lives of at least 700 people and caused widespread damage across Mozambique, Madagascar, and Malawi.
Freddy, according to meteorologists, is the longest-lasting and most traveled tropical cyclone ever recorded. But beyond breaking records, Freddy has left thousands of families broken hearted as they face homelessness and hunger, following the destruction of their homes and the loss of livelihoods. And even as rescue teams work, sometimes with their bare hands, to find missing people in the piles of debris and mud, there is the growing threat of sickness and more loss of life – especially in hardest hit Malawi.
Prior to Freddy sweeping across the region, Malawi was struggling with a deadly cholera outbreak. Officials fear the flood waters will only serve to exacerbate the situation and the spread of other water-borne diseases. Malawi officials say that nearly half of the country has been impacted by Cyclone Freddy – this includes damage to hospitals and healthcare facilities. While there are now hundreds of evacuation centers set up across the country, getting aid to the displaced is extremely difficult as roads have been washed away.
World Renew has been working in Malawi since 1989. The team, working alongside our local partners, is now focused on assessing the needs of the displaced and the most vulnerable people impacted by this disaster. Jacqueline Koster, Interim Director of World Renew’s International Disaster Response team, says “Our immediate priority is seeing that people have food, clean water, and shelter, but a lot of areas are inaccessible because of landslides and flooding and so this is slowing our progress. We ask for prayers for the people who have lost loved ones, their homes, their crops, and are depending on humanitarian aid to help them survive in the coming weeks. And, pray for the safety of those assessing the needs as they work to share Christ’s hope.”
In addition to the threat of the cholera outbreak worsening, there also lies the threat of another cyclone hitting the region. Southern Africa is currently in cyclone season, which can bring rain and severe storms until April. Koster also asks for prayers for “weather systems to remain calm.”
Freddy has also caused significant destruction in Madagascar and Mozambique and World Renew is working in these countries to assess the needs of those impacted and to see how best to provide support.