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Cyclone Idai

Tropical Cyclone Idai made landfall during the night of 14 to 15 March 2019 near Beira City, Sofala Province, in central Mozambique. Cyclone Idai continued across land as a Tropical Storm and hit eastern Zimbabwe on 17 March, with heavy rains and strong winds. The storm caused high winds and heavy precipitation in Chimanimani and Chipinge districts causing riverine and flash flooding and subsequent deaths, destruction of livelihoods and properties.

Latest updates on damage and ongoing response are available here.

Country profile

The humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe is rapidly deteriorating, with the economic crisis compounding the impacts of erratic rainfall, causing sharp price increases and hampering access to food and agricultural inputs. The fragile economic situation is characterized by cash shortages, episodic hyperinflation, unwavering national debt and high unemployment. At the beginning of 2019, there were shortages of basic food commodities in formal markets, including cooking oil, sugar, wheat flour and bread. The economic instability has also resulted in a series of civil strikes over salaries and allowances, including by doctors and teachers.

Nearly 5.3 million people in Zimbabwe, are estimated to be in urgent need of humanitarian assistance and protection during the 2018/2019 lean season (October – April) and beyond. This includes nearly 3.8 million people in rural areas, including 2.9 million who are severely food insecure (IPC phase 3 or 4) and a further 900,000 people who are currently receiving humanitarian assistance, without which they would be in IPC phase 3 or above. In addition, 1.5 million people in urban areas, including major towns and secondary cities, are estimated to be facing severe food insecurity; the majority in Harare where some 0.9 million people are food insecure.

More than 72,200 children are likely to be affected by acute malnutrition in all 63 districts. Rising food insecurity is likely to reverse nutrition improvements noted in 2017, when the global acute malnutrition (GAM) rates reduced to 2.5 per cent and severe acute malnutrition (SAM) to 0.2 per cent.

Inadequate access to safe water and sanitation has caused recurrent disease outbreaks. An estimated 780,000 people remain at risk of WASH-related disease outbreaks and a cholera outbreak that began in September 2018 affected more than 10,000 people, including 65 deaths by January 2019. A chronic typhoid fever outbreak since 2017 has affected 6,100 people, including 17 deaths.

The economic crisis has caused an acute shortage of essential medicines. Zimbabwe’s health-care budget is chronically underfunded, and stocks of essential medicines, diagnostics and supplies have been depleted due to foreign currency shortages. People living with HIV face specific challenges due to rising food insecurity and poor access to healthcare and WASH. More than 1.3 million people—more than 13 per cent of Zimbabweans—live with HIV. Lack of food has a direct impact on the ability of people living with HIV to take their medicines, as the drugs cannot be taken on an empty stomach and also increase the feeling of hunger.

There are rising protection risks, particularly for women and girls, due to economic stress and food insecurity. Girls are particularly vulnerable to family separation, early marriage, teenage pregnancy, domestic violence and extreme coping mechanisms, including transactional sex. School dropout is reportedly already rising, as families prioritize food, performance of households’ chores and casual labour over school attendance.

Serious human rights abuses have been reported. In August 2018, at least six people were killed, and 35 others badly injured during protests against the perceived delay in the annoucement of the outcomes of the Presidential election. Then, in January 2019, at least 17 people were killed, more than 70 treated for gunshot wounds, and over 300 treated for serious injuries during protests against the fuel price hike which turned violent. More than 600 people were reportedly arrested and there are reports of several women and girls being raped.
In response to these urgent needs, the humanitarian community has launched a Flash Appeal which requires $234 million to provide some 2.2 million people with life-saving assistance until June 2019.

Last update: February 2019