Project Report: Cyclone Idai 2019
Profile: Gift of the Givers
The Gift of the Givers Foundation is the largest disaster relief organisation of African origin on the African continent. We have delivered over R2.2 billion in aid to 43 countries around the world. We have designed and developed the world’s first and largest containerised mobile hospital, which was deployed in Bosnia. It was comparable to the best hospitals in Europe and remains unmatched to this day.
Our assistance is purely humanitarian and unconditional. We assist irrespective of race, religion, colour, class, political affiliation or geographical boundary. We are entirely neutral in our approach to mankind in need, are non-judgemental and have an open-minded approach to all situations. We work with governments to get our assistance delivered but do not align ourselves politically to any party. We have an excellent partnership relationship with the South African Government for the delivery of our local projects, as well as for foreign aid delivery.
Our projects cover 21 different categories covering the fields of education, health, poverty alleviation, disaster response, agriculture among others. These are administered by our teams in South Africa, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Somalia, Mauritania, Yemen, Palestine and Syria.
We actively seek to build bridges between people of different cultures and religions engendering goodwill, harmonious coexistence, tolerance and mutual respect in keeping with the divine injunction:
"O Mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Almighty is (he who is) the most righteous of you." (Sura Hujurat/the Inner Apartments, Chapter 49, Verse 13.)
Introduction and Context of Disaster
Cyclone Idai was one of the largest natural disasters to hit Southern Africa in recent years. Between the 4th of March 2019 and the 21st of March 2019, the intense, long-lived storm wreaked havoc in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe.
There are over 1000 fatalities officially reported – although that number is believed to be substantially higher. More than three million people were affected as the rain, wind and subsequent flooding completely destroyed homes, public infrastructure, farming crops and washed away people’s belongings.
Approach to Disaster Response
This was the second time in the history of Gift of the Givers that it needed to respond to a single natural disaster affecting multiple countries simultaneously (the previous one being the 2004 Tsunami). The response from Gift of the Givers Foundation was adapted specifically for each of the countries – based on the needs assessment as well as our footprint on the ground.
The basic elements of the response were:
- Search And Rescue (consisting of water rescue specialist as well as the Off-Road Rescue Unit)
- Specialised Medical Teams (covering PHC, wound care, paediatrics, gynaecology and orthopaedics)
- Sniffer and Recovery Unit (Dog unit to identify victims trapped under the mud)
- Provision of medical supplies and administration of medicines
- Provision of food, water and other essential items
- Logistical Support Services (accommodation, transport into unreachable areas)
MozambiqueSearch And Rescue
With Mozambique seeming to be hardest hit and with most areas inaccessible by land transport – the need was for a Search and Rescue team. Through the network of volunteers, Gift of the Givers mobilised 42 rescue personnel.
- Eight paramedics, aquatic rescue, divers and advanced life support specialists were flown into Beira airport
- A team of 42 members travelling with rescue equipment, lifeboats, jet skis and communication equipment travelled in convoy from South Africa – and eventually set up a base in Estaquinia
The team based in Beira partnered with the SANDF, the Indian Navy and Vodacom Foundation to travel by air to remote areas needing assistance. The team identified a number of areas in need of critical assistance, provided medical care and conducted 10 medical evacuations (bringing patients from the field to Beira for more specialized medical care).
The Off-Road Rescue Unit – from the base in Estaquinia – made use of 4x4 vehicles, jet-skis and boats to travel towards Beira. Along the way they identified stranded people as well as communities needing assistance.
Specialised Medical Team
A team of nine medical specialists – consisting of PHC, wound care, gynaecology, paediatrics, orthopaedics and nutrition/dietiticians – were dispatched in the second phase. These teams were flown from Beira to Estaquinia – and from there serviced the clinics, schools and performed outreach to the local communities. This team attended to 1400 patients in a five-day period and identified several of the patients requiring medical evacuation.
Food and Essential Supplies
Gift of the Givers airlifted non-perishable food, water purification, bottled water, nutritional supplements, blankets, medicines and medical supplies to Beira. Additionally, food and hygiene items were procured inside Mozambique through commercial suppliers as well as other non-governmental organisations.
From Beira, these supplies were then transported by air to camps and villages within a 100km radius.
Logistical Support Services
One of the major challenges in Mozambique was access to affected areas – and finding a reliable means to transport relief supplies, equipment and personnel to and from the field. A second challenge was finding a base from which to coordinate.
A number of representatives from INGC as well as several ministries explained – the issue was not supplies – but rather getting supplies to the people.
Gift of the Givers rented space at Beira airport. This formed the operational command centre from which the efforts of the teams were coordinated. Other organisations arriving into Beira, the media as well as the second relief team were welcomed and hosted in this area.
The team in Estaquinia set up camp to host our own team – but eventually expanded to host foreign relief teams such as the Kenyan Red Cross, SSF, African Parks, Global Medic, several local NGOs and the media that needed a base to work from.
In the absence of mobile communications – radio communication was set up allowing the teams in Beira and Estaquinia to work jointly.
With both camps established – there was still an issue travelling between the two. Gift of the Givers hired three helicopters as well as partly sponsored a fourth inside Mozambique. This was at a significant cost – but without any alternatives – this was the primary means of transport. Together with the assistance of two helicopters from the SANDF – these three helicopters:
- Transported the medical, logistical and media personnel
- Transported medical supplies and medics from the Ministry of Health to clinics in and around Buzi
- Transported food and essentials to affected areas
In total – this team transported medicines for more than 5000 people, distributed over 80 tons of food, 1000 blankets, hundreds of hygiene packs, water purification for 100 000 litres of water.
Zimbabwe turned out to be more complicated than the other two countries. There were a number of political and logistical obstacles – which took two weeks to work through. The initial plan was to send a search and rescue team – similar to the team that went to Mozambique. However, the Zimbabwean authorities delay in issuing permits meant that by the time the team reached – it would be too late for them to be of any use. It was therefore discussed and agreed to send through a team that could help the authorities locate victims trapped in the mud.
A team of 12 members and four dogs were sent to assist with the locating of victims. The team were not allowed to identify bodies – but were instead asked to locate areas where local police or rescue personnel should focus their efforts.
Food and Essential Supplies
The Gift of the Givers Office in Zimbabwe procured food, blankets and hygiene items. Additional food supplies as well as water purification were sent from South Africa.
These were distributed in pockets. Unfortunately, all aid trucks were being directed to government storage facilities. As it is Gift of the Givers policy to hand over aid to beneficiaries directly – we had to halt the process until we are given permission to work in the areas directly – without our aid being diverted. We welcome Zimbabwean authorities pointing us to areas in need as well as sending representatives to accompany the distribution – but we cannot hand over the goods and not have any transparency in the distribution process.
Gift of the Givers has an office established in Blantyre. The project team were dispatched to the flood affected regions where they partnered with the Malawi Defense Force (MDF), the Malawi Red Cross and the Department of Disaster Management Affairs (DoDMA). This partnership proved to be very fruitful. The support from these organisations meant that Gift of the Givers could focus on providing humanitarian relief – while they took care of medical and logistical needs.
Food and Essential Supplies
Within the first few days of the disaster, Gift of the Givers was able to reach seven out of the 11 districts affected by the cyclone. The areas assisted were: Nsanje, Chikwawa, Zomba, Phalombe, Mangochi, Mashinga and Mulanje.
The support extended included blankets, plastic sheeting, mosquito nets, kitchen utensils comprising cooking pots, plates, cups and buckets, and food parcels containing maize flour, corn soya blend, sugar, salt, milk, rice, tea, beans, soy chunk relish, laundry and bath soap.
Over the next few days the camps for displaced people increased dramatically – this included a number of displaced people from Mozambique. Gift of the Givers responded with a further 400 hampers in these areas.
Gift of the Givers added the flood victims in these areas to the regular hunger alleviation programs. In the month following the initial intervention an additional 1200 hampers were distributed in the flood-affected regions.
Future Plans Mozambique
In the wrap up phase of the relief operations in Mozambique – Gift of the Givers handed over its supplies tent in Estaquinia as well as the base to the Red Cross. Through their network they committed to bring in further aid and continue using the base as a point from which to coordinate distributions.
We also established a relationship with the Ministry of Health as well as several local NGOs with which to continue any future relief work. It has been made clear to us that in terms of food and medicine – there has been huge support so there is no need for us to intervene in this regard.
We are currently investigating the possibility of supporting rural communities with building materials as well as supporting schools and pupils with educational supplies. What is very apparent – even before the cyclone – these areas were facing major difficulties. There are developmental issues that need to take place – but with the attention received by these communities – as a result of the cyclone – we can try to provide some improvement to everyday life.
In Zimbabwe, the distribution of food, hygiene items as well as water purification sachets will continue in the flood-affected areas. This has resumed as of 19th June 2019.
We have approached the Ministry of Health for approval to send through primary health care kits – a kit that can provide medical treatment for 10000 people for up to three months. We have already identified local medical partners to manage the implementation. However, the delay is in getting the required permits for importing the medicines.
The majority of our post-disaster efforts will be focused in Malawi.
We have sent a large consignment of shoes and clothing from South Africa. The team in Malawi is currently making the logistical arrangements to distribute:
- 1000 sets of clothes for adult men
- 1000 sets of clothes for adult women
- 500 set of clothes for children
- 3000 pairs of new shoes
Distribution of hygiene pack in the flood affected areas will continue for the next few months. This includes personal care as well as detergents. It also includes sanitary packs for young women (a program that we run in other parts of the country as well).
The Gift of the Givers team in Malawi have for many years supported rural farmers. These are usually targeted in the start of Summer (the rainy season). However, to assist many of the flood affected areas – our agriculturalist has put together a pack to kick start the maize and bean production (including the seeds, fertilizers and tools) as well as certain cash crops that grow well in the area. 800 packs have been prepared – which will be distributed at the beginning of June.
We have applied to send through a PHC kit sufficient to treat 10000 patients for up to three months. It is currently awaiting a permit from the Ministry of Health. On the same consignment we have already received clearance for water purification sachets as well as wheelchairs.
Requests have been received for 30 boreholes. The team is assessing potential sites. Approval has been given to the on-the-ground team for 5 boreholes – with budgets being planned for a further 10 boreholes.