Heartbreak in Southern Africa
In early February, Cyclone Freddy developed off the coast of Australia and traveled about 5,000 miles across the Indian Ocean, making landfall twice in southeastern Africa. Freddy brought torrential rains and high winds that resulted in landslides and flooding, took the lives of over 700 people, and caused widespread damage across Mozambique, Madagascar, and Malawi.
According to meteorologists, Freddy is the longest-lasting and most-traveled tropical cyclone ever recorded. But beyond breaking records, Freddy left thousands of families brokenhearted as they face homelessness, hunger, and the loss of loved ones and livelihoods. Even as rescue teams keep working, often with their bare hands, to find missing people amid piles of debris and mud, there is a growing threat of sickness and more loss of life – especially in hardest hit Malawi.
Prior to seeing Freddy sweep across the region, Malawi was struggling from a deadly cholera outbreak. Officials fear that the floodwaters will only serve to exacerbate the situation and to spread 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 hundreds of evacuation centers are now set up across the country, getting aid to displaced people is extremely difficult because roads have been washed away.
World Renew has been working in Malawi since 1989. The team, working alongside local partners, is now focused on assessing the needs of the displaced and the most vulnerable people affected by this disaster. Jacqueline Koster, interim director of World Renew’s International Disaster Response team, said, “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, so this is slowing our progress. We ask for prayers for the people who have lost loved ones, homes, and crops and are depending on humanitarian aid to help them survive in the coming weeks. And pray for the safety of the people assessing needs as they work to share Christ’s hope.”
Freddy has also caused significant destruction in Madagascar and Mozambique, and World Renew is working in these countries as well to assess needs and to see how best to provide support.
In addition, there is also 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 that “weather systems remain calm.”