Cyclone Idai

Find out how CARE has been helping people to recover and rebuild after Cyclone Idai

In March 2019, Cyclone Idai followed by massive flooding left a trail of destruction across Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe, killing hundreds of people and affecting an estimated 2.6 million people.

The people of Mozambique were also hit by Cyclone Kenneth which brought devastation to areas of northern Mozambique that had not previously experienced a storm of this force and scale. The combined effect of the cyclones and flooding left emergency response teams struggling to meet the massive needs for help of millions of people.

Houses, roads and bridges were ripped apart and agricultural land was completely submerged. Hundreds of thousands of people were forced to abandon their homes and their farms and move to makeshift shelters in temporary camps with no means of support. CARE responded with emergency shelter, food, water and sanitation assistance.

In addition to damage to their homes, hundreds of thousands of households had their land and crops partially or totally destroyed. In the medium term, affected areas are facing a severe food crisis, while in the long term, people will need support to rebuild their livelihoods.

DEC Cyclone Idai Appeal

CARE is a member of the Disasters Emergency Committee and donations to the DEC Cyclone Idai Appeal in March 2019 will help fund the emergency response by CARE and other DEC members. Thank you to the UK public for your generous support of the DEC appeal.

  • Read more about Cyclone Idai and its aftermath, including rescue footage, satellite imagery, individual stories, and examples of emergency assistance in action, in this multimedia article created by the DEC: After the Storm
  • Explore this interactive map created by the DEC, showing the timeline of how the disaster unfolded and the immediate response:

What are the needs?

The immediate and primary focus of the relief effort was to save lives, but the effect of the disaster will be felt for a long time. Across the three countries, shelter, water and sanitation, food, health assistance and protection were the immediate needs. Support will also be required to help children continue their education, rebuild livelihoods and strengthen community resilience to better withstand future disasters.

Family sheltering in damaged building after cyclone
A family sheltering under the roof of a damaged building after Cyclone Idai in Mozambique

Shelter: hundreds of thousands of homes were damaged or destroyed during the cyclone and associated flooding. People displaced from their homes may need to stay in temporary shelters and camps for a considerable time.

Food and livelihoods: crops have been destroyed and livestock killed in all three countries. Flooding of farmland is particularly devastating for smallholder farmers who rely on their crops for food for their families and to generate an income from selling their produce. The devastating floods, as well as the impact of the cyclone, had an immediate impact on the main harvest due to take place in late March, with long-term effects on food security and livelihoods.

Water, sanitation and hygiene: damage to sanitation facilities and prevalence of unsafe water, due to water supply destruction and interruption, was reported. Wells and boreholes were contaminated by floods.

Health: there is an increased risk of malaria, cholera and other diarrheal diseases, and there is concern regarding the potential for a communicable disease outbreak.

Education: school facilities were highly damaged by the flooding. More than 340 classrooms were partially or totally damaged affecting more than 45,000 students in Mozambique (Zambezia, Tete and Niassa) alone.

Protection: women and children face heightened protection risks, especially gender-based violence particularly if the impact of the floods and cyclone means that they have been left with precarious shelter conditions. Without adequate shelter facilities children are at risk of being separated from their families.

Read more:

How is CARE responding?


In Mozambique, CARE coordinates our emergency response through the COSACA consortium with Oxfam and Save the Children. Our immediate response included:

  • providing immediate shelter, hygiene, safe water, and food assistance to the most vulnerable and affected communities
  • re-establishing access to basic services including healthcare, education and safe water through the repair and reconstruction of partially destroyed schools and healthcare centres, improving access to clean water, and promoting good hygiene practices to prevent disease outbreak
  • integrating child protection programming and prioritising continuation of learning for children whose education has been disrupted following the cyclone: we aim to make sure that children can learn regardless of who they are, where they live or what is happening around them
  • helping affected people to rebuild and recover by assisting people to resume farming and rebuild their agricultural livelihoods through the distribution of inputs (seeds and livestock).

At least 56 people in Malawi died as a result of flash floods preceding the cyclone. These floods caused significant destruction. With the cyclone leading to more rainfall, the already inundated areas faced even greater destruction and losses.

CARE worked with the local authorities in Malawi to support the affected communities. We deployed staff to assess the needs and gather information about the situation on the ground, to ensure our response was effective and addresses people’s needs.

It is likely that people displaced from their homes will remain in temporary settlements for some time. Shelter materials and support will be required.


In Zimbabwe, the storm caused high winds and heavy rainfall in the east of the country, causing rivers to overflow. At least 98 deaths were reported with hundreds still missing. There has been flash flooding, landslides and destruction of livelihoods and properties.

CARE is assessing the situation in order to respond based on identified needs and in coordination with other aid agencies.

Woman sitting on canister after cyclone
Sarah Domingos has just arrived on dry ground in the village of Tica (Mozambique) after her home was flooded

Meeting the needs of women and girls

Unequal power relations, gender inequalities and discrimination mean that women and girls are often the hardest hit during a crisis and overall take longer to recover.

During times of crisis women’s access to, or control over, critical resources worsens, and can lead to exclusion from claiming basic services and rights. As a result, women’s and girls’ vulnerability increases and undermines their ability to cope with and recover from the impacts of a disaster.

CARE aims to ensure that our emergency responses are gender-sensitive. Our teams conducted a Rapid Gender Analysis to gather information about the different needs, capacities and coping strategies of women, men, boys and girls in the specific circumstances following Cyclone Idai. As women and girls are the most vulnerable, where appropriate we focused on addressing the specific needs of women and girls, for example by ensuring that women and girls have safe access to water and sanitation, and that there is adequate lighting around latrines in temporary camps for displaced people to reduce risks of sexual harassment and violence.

Speaking about the situation in northern Mozambique after Cyclone Kenneth, Daw Mohamed, Humanitarian Director for CARE International, said:

Our primary concern is the welfare and safety of women and girls. Many of the mothers we have met are overwhelmed as they try to fend for their children. Yesterday, I met and spoke to women who were feeding their children unripe lemons as there was nothing else to eat. Our teams also saw women who were cutting some wet grass in the flooded fields to use as roofing cover for their damaged houses.

These additional responsibilities will very likely put women into positions of vulnerability and expose them to various types of gender-based violence and harassment. CARE wants to be able to support these women as soon as possible to avoid that.

CARE will be working long-term with affected communities to help people to rebuild their lives and livelihoods and improve their ability to cope with future climate shocks. You can support our ongoing work with affected people and communities by donating to our Cyclone Idai Appeal.

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