Early action saves lives, as Tropical Cyclone Freddy hits Mozambique

Early action saves lives, as Tropical Cyclone Freddy hits Mozambique

Accurate early warnings and early action on the ground helped limit loss of life over the course of the cyclone, UN officials said.

UN agencies delivered a host of supplies ahead of the approaching cyclone and are providing assistance to those in need. Currently, strong winds and high seas are threatening Mozambique with dangerous and exceptional rainfall levels.

Critical preparations

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has been helping residents to brace for the storms for days.

“UNICEF teams are fully focused on protecting the tens of thousands of children impacted by this tropical storm and the devastating flooding it is causing,” said Maria Luisa Fornara, the UNICEF representative in Mozambique.

“The coming hours and days are the most critical, and UNICEF will continue to work around the clock to support those in need,” she said.

UNICEF teams had assessed immediate needs and mobilized the rapid distribution of such critical supplies as safe water and water purification supplies, medical supplies, tents, and hygiene kits.

Early Warnings for All

UN officials underlined the importance of the Organization’s ongoing Early Warnings for All campaign in preventing the loss of life.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has been tracking developments over the past weeks, including when it affected Madagascar days ago.

“Accurate early warnings and early action on the ground helped limit loss of life in Madagascar, with initial reports of seven casualties,” WMO said.

Before the cyclone made landfall in Madagascar, UNICEF had pre-positioned school kits for about 30,000 children, and the World Food Programme (WFP) has provided more than 25,000 hot meals to displaced people, UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric told reporters at UN Headquarters on Friday.

“Our colleagues estimate at least 79,000 people have been impacted and these numbers could rise as the assessments are ongoing,” he said.

Government sounds early ‘red alert’

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that the Mozambique Council of Ministers declared on Tuesday a red alert enabling expedited and simplified response operations.

However, the confluence of multiple threats is compounding a severe humanitarian situation in Mozambique, where two million people need humanitarian assistance and protection across the northern provinces of Cabo Delgado, Niassa and Nampula, OCHA said.

Cyclone Freddy makes landfall in Vilanculos, in the province of Inhambane in Mozambique.

Rare cyclone

Cyclone Freddy is exceptional because of the long distance it has travelled and its longevity, developing on 6 February off the coast northwest of Australia and affected island nations, including Mauritius and La Réunion, during its long journey across the entire South Indian Ocean.

This rarely seen track was last recorded in 2000, with tropical cyclones Leon-Eline and Hudah.

Mozambique is regularly hit by the impacts of tropical cyclones, and flooding often poses a greater risk than the winds, WMO said. In January 2021, Tropical cyclone Eloise caused widespread damage and flooding on a long swathe of coastline and impacted an area that is still recovering from cyclone Idai, which hit in March 2019.

WMO said that in both the cases of Eloise and Idai, flooding affected Mozambique and neighbouring countries Zimbabwe, Malawi and parts of South Africa, which may be the case with cyclone Freddy.

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