March 30 — Tropical Cyclone Idai hit the southeastern portion of Africa very hard, especially certain regions of Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe March 14-15. A cyclone is the same as a hurricane, which usually refers to monstrous storms in the Atlantic and Northeast Pacific. The word cyclone is mainly used for storms in the South Pacific and Indian Ocean.
According to a March 26 reliefweb.int report, at least 3 million people have been impacted by Idai’s winds of up to 150 miles an hour and torrential rain, causing many to flee their homelands for higher ground. An estimated 600 people have died, almost 500 in Mozambique alone, and thousands more are missing. More than 470,000 hectares of crops have been destroyed in these mainly agricultural countries — well over a million acres. (Two and a half acres roughly equal one hectare.)
The coastal city of Beira in Mozambique became the epicenter of the cyclone. Beira, home to 500,000 residents, has been in the forefront of the fight against global warming because its coastline is considered by “experts” to be one of the world’s most vulnerable to rising waters due to climate change. According to the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery, a group linked to the World Bank and the United Nations, “Mozambique is the third most at-risk country in Africa when it comes to extreme weather.” (bbc.com, March 15)
The World Bank approved a project in 2012 to help Beira deal with coastal flooding, since most of the people there live below sea level. The project, completed in 2018 at a cost of $120 million, did not stop Cyclone Idai from carrying out complete devastation.
While the mayor of Beira, Daviz Simango, blamed the Mozambican government and other African governments for not preparing the population for the cyclone, he also called it “unjust that African nations face some of the toughest challenges while contributing little to global warming. People in rich, industrialized nations produce much of the carbon dioxide and other gases that are warming the planet by burning the most coal, diesel, gasoline and jet fuel. … This cyclone destroyed everything we built for more than 100 years.” (AP, March 27)
Beginning with European invasions, colonialism and neocolonialism have resulted in Africa today being the most underdeveloped continent, but still the richest due to its mineral wealth. Mozambique is a former colony of Portugal.
It is of little wonder that even with all the efforts taken to strengthen Beira’s infrastructure, it still wasn’t enough to withstand the cyclone.
As a result, a new epidemic of cholera, a preventable disease, has broken out there due to severe damage to the water supply system by flooding, according to Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).
Gert Verdonck, MSF’s emergency coordinator in Beira, stated, “The cyclone has left a path of devastation with thousands of houses destroyed, which has left the community vulnerable and exposed to the elements. The supply chain has been broken, creating food, clean water, and health care shortages. The scale of extreme damage will likely lead to a dramatic increase of waterborne diseases, skin infections, respiratory tract infections, and malaria in the coming days and weeks. Furthermore, the local health system and its regular services, such as HIV treatment and maternal health care, has also been disrupted.” (doctorswithoutborders.org, March 26)
This crisis is a reminder of the just demand for reparations for the African people from the rich capitalist countries whose genocidal policies have stolen their wealth and labor for centuries.