5 ways the U.S. is responding to Cyclone Idai

Tropical Cyclone Idai  —  the worst natural disaster to hit southern Africa in two decades  —  made landfall over Mozambique on March 15, producing torrential rains and strong winds across the country, as well as in neighboring Malawi and Zimbabwe.

The cyclone caused catastrophic flooding, which has killed hundreds of people and has left nearly 1.9 million people in need of assistance.

Here are five ways the United States is helping people affected by Cyclone Idai:

1. Sending a USAID disaster team

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) deployed an elite team to Mozambique on March 20 to coordinate U.S. response efforts, conduct damage assessments, identify priority needs and work closely with local authorities and humanitarian organizations to provide critical assistance to people in need.

This elite team is called a Disaster Assistance Response Team and is made up of logisticians and experts in shelter, health, water, sanitation and hygiene.

 2. Providing U.S. military support

At the request of USAID, the U.S. military — in coordination with the government of Mozambique  —  commenced air operations on March 27 to deliver humanitarian assistance to communities affected by Cyclone Idai.

People walking toward a C-130 plane on a tarmac (U.S. Embassy Maputo)
This C-130 will assist the USAID-led response by airlifting critical commodities  —  like food, shelter kits and vehicles  —  to hard-to-reach areas. (U.S. Embassy Maputo)

The Department of Defense’s U.S. Africa Command deployed a C-130 Hercules cargo aircraft and the 435th Contingency Response Group, along with cargo handling equipment, to help expedite the flow of relief supplies.

3. Airlifting heavy-duty plastic sheeting

USAID’s team conducted assessments in Beira and confirmed that lack of shelter and safe drinking water were priority needs. In response, USAID is airlifting critical commodities  —  including two water treatment units, water containers, heavy-duty plastic sheeting, shelter toolkits, blankets, kitchen sets and hygiene supplies  —  to Mozambique from emergency warehouses in Dubai and Pisa.

4. Supporting humanitarian programs

To help people who have lost everything, the U.S. is partnering with World Vision to provide emergency shelter, water, sanitation and hygiene programs; and the International Organization for Migration to provide shelter kits.

Woman holding a baby, with teenage boy standing next to them (World Vision UK)
Fourteen-year-old Adolino and his family are sheltering in a school after their home was torn apart by Cyclone Idai. (World Vision UK)

USAID also is working with CARE to provide relief supplies specifically for women and girls. This includes hygiene kits containing sanitary napkins, soap, buckets and toothbrushes.

By the end of April, USAID and the World Food Programme hope to provide enough food for 1 million people. This includes delivering approximately 2,500 metric tons of USAID-provided rice, peas and vegetable oil to people in Sofala, Zambezia and Manica provinces.

5. Preparing before disaster strikes

USAID also works year-round to reduce the impact of disasters by helping communities become more self-reliant. One of the first search and rescue teams on the ground in Mozambique was Rescue South Africa, a team that USAID has helped train for years.

A longer version of this article was published by USAID.