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Idai deadliest cyclone ever to batter Southern Africa.

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from ARIMANDO DOMINGOS in Maputo, Mozambique
MAPUTO – PROJECTIONS that the death toll in the Tropical Cyclone Idai sweeping through Southern Africa has reached 1 000 makes this possibly the deadliest cyclone ever recorded in the region.

Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe are bearing the brunt of the crisis, which has left a trail of destruction in its wake.

The cyclone hit Mozambique first on Thursday night, with the city of Beira and its surrounding villages receiving the heaviest blow.

It continued from there to Zimbabwe and Malawi.

Humanitarian organisations said there was an ongoing risk that others will lose their lives to flooding in the cyclone-affected region, with rainfall expected to continue.

On Monday, Mozambique President, Felipe Nyusi, on a visit to Beira said the effects of the cyclone were devastating.

Aid agencies corroborated the president.

Marc Nosbach, CARE’s country director in Mozambique, said roads to the areas hit by the cyclone had been completely blocked by fallen trees and rubble.

“The infrastructure has been completely destroyed,” he said.

Initial reports indicate significant damage to houses and buildings, including to health facilities and schools.

“There is a complete power outage since Thursday’s rainfall. Telephone and internet communications are down,” Nosbach said.

Officially, over 2OO people have been killed but NGO said this was way below the true reflection of the catastrophe.

“The cyclone has destroyed our homes. Everything has been lost. I am grateful I managed to escape with my children,” said Leila Naimo, a 39-year-old mother of two.

Antonio Mutola, also of Beira, is a survivor of many cyclones that have battered the disaster-prone Southern African country over the years.

“The Cyclone Eline of 2000 is still fresh in my mind as I lost my home and all I had but I have never in my life experienced something like this (Cyclone Idai). The weather was evil. People died from falling street poles and were hit by rocks,” he said at a makeshift settlement in the city.

A humanitarian worker at the settlement, who spoke to CAJ News Africa, said they were struggling to meet demand for food, clothes and blankets for victims.

“It is a catastrophe. We have been stretched to the limit in terms of provision of resources,” she said.

The camp was established last week amid indications the cyclone will make a landfall with devastating impact. Then, some ten people had died.

A community leader, Lewis Simao, said the devastation had taken a mental toll on survivors who in recent years had to contend with drought.

“The victims are traumatised beyond description. The damage by Idai on already stressed communities will open emotional wounds that will take time to heal,” Simao said.

Humanitarian groups said Beira is “90 percent destroyed or damaged.”

Beira, with a population of over 530 000 people is the fourth largest city in Mozambique.

The Beira Central Hospital emergency wing remains non-operational because of the damage by storms.

Parts of Beira Port – including the grain terminal, warehouses and coal terminal – sustained damage.

Outside the city, a dam collapsed, causing extensive damage.

People sought refuge on the tops of their roofs and trees as rising floodwaters swept through the area.

Initial aerial surveys indicated significant loss of life, although exact numbers of people impacted are not yet known.

In neighbouring Zimbabwe, an almost similar number has died and over 100 missing.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who has cut short his trip to the Middle East, has declared a state of emergency.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said the scale of damage caused by Cyclone Idai was “massive and horrifying.”
Jamie LeSueur, who is leading the IFRC assessment team into Beira, said this followig after taking part in a Red Cross aerial assessment.

“The situation is terrible. The scale of devastation is enormous. It seems that 90 percent of the area is completely destroyed.”

“Almost everything is destroyed. Communication lines have been completely cut and roads have been destroyed. Some affected communities are not accessible. Beira has been severely battered. We are also hearing that the situation outside the city could be even worse. A large dam has burst and cut off the last road to the city.”

IFRC has already released about 340 000 Swiss francs (US$339660) from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund, which will go towards an initial response effort for about 7 500 people.

However, officials said given the scale of the disaster, more resources may be needed to support Mozambique Red Cross efforts on the ground.

The team in Beira has identified shelter, health, and water, sanitation and hygiene as priorities.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) disclosed children constituted half of the victims of the Cyclone Idai.

“Hundreds of thousands of children have already seen their lives turned upside down by the devastating floods, and now Cyclone Idai has brought further suffering to families in its path,” said United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) regional director, Leila Pakkala.

UNICEF is appealing for $20,3 million to support the response in the affected countries.

In South Africa, International Relations and Cooperation Minister, Lindiwe Sisulu, appealed to NGOs, companies and individuals to make donations towards humanitarian aid for the affected countries.

“We have directed all our Embassies and Diplomats to continue to work with the three countries to assess the damage” Sisulu said.

Mami Mizutori, the UN Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, said the Cyclone Idai highlighted urgent need to ensure resilience of infrastructure to extreme weather.

“I extend my deepest sympathy to all those who have lost loved ones in what is the worst extreme weather event to occur so far this year. Cyclone Idai underlines that no matter how effective early warnings are, there is still a huge demand for greater investment in resilient infrastructure in
many parts of the world if we are to break the cycle of disaster-response-recovery,” the UN envoy said.

Mizutori said it was particularly distressing that severe damage had been done to schools, hospitals, health facilities and other key infrastructure.

This would have consequences not just for the emergency response phase but for the long-term efforts of these countries to eradicate poverty and hunger.

“Cyclone Idai is a clear demonstration of the exposure and vulnerability of many low-lying cities and towns to sea-level rise as the impact of climate change continues to influence and disrupt normal weather patterns,” Mizutori said.

This past weekend, the United Kingdom sent humanitarian experts to assess the impact of an expected cyclone in Mozambique.

International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt said, “We are sending UK aid experts to Mozambique to be our eyes and ears on the ground and to make sure we’re ready to rapidly increase our response if needed.”

The fatal cyclone is the strongest such tragedy to strike after Cyclone Jokwe hit Mozambique in 2008. Jokwe left 123 people dead.

Idai comes as the Southern African countries were reeling from other natural disasters.

“Tropical Cyclone Idai makes an already dangerous situation even more serious. Thousands of people have already been affected by drought, severe rains and flooding in the last few weeks,” said Erica Dahl-Bredine, Catholic Relief Services regional representative.

– CAJ News

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Africa

Buhari Appointed by ECOWAS to Champion COVID-19 Response

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President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), has been appointed the mantle of the COVID-19 response leadership by presidents under the Economic Community of West African States.

A statement by Buhari’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, in Abuja, said the appointment took place on Thursday, at the Extraordinary ECOWAS Summit on COVID-19, which was held via teleconference under the chairmanship of the President of the Republic of Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou.

During the teleconference, Buhari was said to have called on fellow ECOWAS leaders to look beyond the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and tap into various opportunities that it presents for the betterment of lives in member states.

Buhari was quoted as saying, “In every challenging situation such as the current one, there are also opportunities. Our region must therefore seek to find those opportunities provided by this gloomy global outlook for its benefit by embarking on the implementation of such critical policies, which, before now, will be difficult to accept.”

While calling on his colleagues to intensify collaboration to save the region from “this deadly pandemic through sharing our experiences and best practices,” Buhari outlined some measures taken by his regime in response to the pandemic.

They include reduction of interest rates on all applicable Central Bank of Nigeria interventions from nine per cent to five per cent and introduction of a one-year moratorium on CBN intervention facilities. The inauguration of a presidential task force to coordinate national efforts to combat the spread of the virus and ensure efficiency and effectiveness in line with the Nigerian Action Plan on Health Security.

The President also stated that unprecedented economic uncertainties, including severe fiscal and foreign exchange constraints, amid a slowdown in global economic growth that most nations are grappling with, had made it imperative for “our sub-region to refocus on accelerating the implementation of our popular vision of ‘ECOWAS of the people’ by adopting progressive regional policies aimed at providing relief to our citizens.”

Buhari added, “At a time of global uncertainty such as this, caused by the devastating impact of the COVID-19, let me convey Nigeria’s solidarity with all the member states as we collectively battle to defeat the pandemic.

“I am greatly saddened by the loss of numerous lives and extend my heartfelt condolences to families of those who have lost loved ones throughout the region. I also wish infected victims speedy and full recovery.”

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Africa

COVID-19: AU on Nigeria’s Behalf Seeks Debt Relief

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The African Union, Nigeria office, has urged China, France, Japan and India to write off Nigeria’s debt or allow two-year abeyance on repayments.

It commended the International Monetary Fund for granting relief to 25 nations under its Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust to tackle the novel coronavirus.

The AU agency’s Nigeria Representative, Oba Olasunkanmi, in a statement in Abuja on Thursday, explained that as major lenders, they should also grant a reprieve to the Federal Government to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

It said, “Certainly, this will further assist the benefiting countries to significantly cushion the impact of the dreaded disease on their economies. Nigeria, at this time, needs support to enable it to recover from the financial impact.”

The AU further  noted that it would be difficult for the nation to service the debts in the face of the economic realities imposed by COVID-19 “as the United Nations had projected that the world would need $1 trillion for continual existence.”

It noted, “Nigeria needs China’s support at this trying time, with the long and fruitful bilateral relationship between both countries which has led to Nigerian government owing China the debt of about $3.2 billion.

“We are faithful in payment of service charges. In 2019, Nigeria paid $138.8 million (N53.7billion) to EXIM Bank of China in settlement, the highest amount paid to any bilateral institution for the year.”

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Africa

COVID-19 May Claim 300,000 Africans — UNECA

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The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa
has disclosed due to deductions, 300,000 Africans may lose their lives due to COVID-19.

UNECA Communications Section, the ECA said the scenario would also push close to 27 million people into extreme poverty.

The report, which was launched virtually on Friday and titled: “COVID-19: Protecting African Lives and Economies”, the ECA said Africa’s fragile health systems could see additional costs being imposed on them.

The UN agency explained that this is because of the growing crisis that has, to date, resulted in over 16,000 infected Africans and claimed over 800 lives at the time of the report’s launch.

Ms Vera Songwe, UN Executive Secretary, ECA, said that to protect and build toward the continent’s shared prosperity, 100 billion dollars is needed to urgently and immediately provide fiscal space to all countries.

She said this is to help address the immediate safety net needs of the populations

Songwe noted that Africa is particularly susceptible because 56 per cent of its urban population is concentrated in slums or informal dwellings, and only 34 per cent of African households have access to necessary handwashing facilities.

“The economic costs of the pandemic have been harsher than the direct impact of the COVID-19.

“Across the continent, all economies are suffering from the sudden shock to the economies.

“The physical distancing needed to manage the pandemic is suffocating and drowning economic activity,” she said.

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Africa

Insurgency Confrontation Leaves 4 Soldiers, 63 Unknown Gunmen Killed in Niger Republic

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The Nigerien Army lost four soldiers in the fight against insurgency but vanquished sixty-three armed men suspected to be affiliated with major terrorist cells in the Sahel region of Africa.

“After a fierce fight” on Thursday in the Tillaberi region near the border with Mali, the soldiers who had been on an anti-terrorist operation put the attackers “on the run” and recovered dozens of motorcycles and weapons, and the Nigerien Defence Ministry said in a statement read on public television.

The Tillaberi region is in close to the borders of both Mali and Burkina Faso.

Use of motorcycles has been banned there since January to curb attacks by jihadists who are active there.

According to an official report, 174 soldiers were killed in three attacks in the area in January and December. Two were claimed by the Islamic State group.

The entire Sahel has become blighted by jihadist violence — often interspersed by conflicts between communities — which left 4,000 dead in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso in 2019, according to the United Nations.

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