Cyclone Idai and floods hit Southern Africa: the reality of climate change

The devastating Cyclone Idai that hit south-eastern Africa may be the worst ever disaster to strike the southern hemisphere, according to the UN. Ever-worsening storms and climate change are destroying people's lives - and the poorest are hit hardest. How can we equip them to cope with a world where climate change means extreme weather events such as Idai happen more often?

It is 2am and you are fast asleep. Suddenly you hear people shouting and your neighbors are calling for you to wake up and leave the house immediately.

You grab your four-month old baby, wrap her tight around you, then grab your two daughters not worrying if they are awake or not.

Unimaginable thunder and the roaring of water keep bombarding your ears.

The moment you step out of the house, you can hardly see for the thick clouds and heavy rain. You hear an unseen voice shouting at you: “Run, it is flooding!”

Everyone is in a panic with no sense of no direction and you do not know where to run to. You cannot go back into the house, so the only option you have is climb the nearest tree.

As you read this blog, you think it could never happen to you.

But this is exactly happened to 36-year-old Malita Mishoni from Ntowa Village in Mozambique.

Malita with Oxfam hygiene kit at Bangula Camp, Malawi. Photo: Daud Kayisi/Oxfam

Malita with Oxfam hygiene kit at Bangula Camp, Malawi. Photo: Daud Kayisi/Oxfam

“For a second, I thought the world was ending - but I looked at my three children and said to myself, I need to do something. I climbed the tree near my house and clung to it while holding onto my three children until dawn,” she explains with tears welling in her eyes.

“I saw the waters rising and getting closer to where we were and I thought we would die.”

"We ate nothing"

After five years of working in the field with Oxfam, this is the story that finally brought me to the point of tears. But I strengthened myself because I wanted to give Malita support to finish telling her story.

I asked Malita what food she and her children had while they were in the tree.

“We ate nothing and we never felt hungry,” she says. “

I stayed in the tree with my two daughters and the baby for two days until the water began subsiding and people with canoes came to bargain for our rescue.”

The canoe-men asked her to pay MK4000 ($5.25USD) to be taken to Malawi side which was safer but she did not have any cash. She pleaded with them and promised to work in their garden once she was in in Malawi.

They took her and this is how she made it with her children to Bangula Camp in Nsanje district in the southern tip of Malawi.

The camp is now home to 5,000 displaced children, women and men from both Malawi and Mozambique who fled their homes with the arrival of Cyclone Idai.

She says, once the waters have subsided, she would like to go back and begin a new life again.

Oxfam is there

Today, Malita is among the 1,000 households at the camp that are receiving hygiene kits from Oxfam.

“We really needed soap here. We lost everything in the flood, but today marks a new beginning for us, thanks to the Oxfam support. I have a baby and two other daughters and these buckets and soap will make it a bit easier to take care of my children.”

John Makina, Oxfam in Malawi Country Director says “People have been left with nothing. They need help now and in the months and years ahead to rebuild their communities in a way, which equips them for a world where climate change means extreme weather events such as Idai happen more often.

“Idai is yet another deadly warning of the impact of unchecked climate change unless governments, particularly major emitters, fail to cut emissions fast.”

Surely the 5000 children, women, men and very old people I walked among at the camp must not be subjected to this ever again. When they have played no role in degrading our environment, why should they continue paying the steepest price?

Donate now to Oxfam's flood response

This entry posted on 26 March 2019, by Daud Kayisi, Oxfam Media & Communications Coordinator.

Top photo: A family dig for their son who got buried in the mud when Cyclone Idai struck in Chimanimani about 600 kilometers south east of Harare, Zimbabwe, Tuesday, March, 19, 2019. Credit: Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP/REX

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