Operational update on Cyclone Idai: Assistance for separated families, deep concern for rural villages

22 March 2019

In the wake of the devastating Cyclone Idai, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is deploying additional staff to Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi to work with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and National Red Cross societies in the relief efforts. An update on the situation after Cylone Idai in central Mozambique and the ICRC’s response plans:

“Every day we discover that the destruction left by Cyclone Idai is worse than we imagined. We are deeply concerned about remote communities that are cut-off by flooding and landslides and are yet to receive any humanitarian assistance. More rain is expected to come, which will add to the suffering of people who have already lost everything,” said Hicham Mandoudi, the ICRC’s head of sub-delegation in Beira, Mozambique.

“Families have been separated or lost contact in the storm. The agony of not knowing what happened to your loved one in a disaster like Cyclone Idai is indescribable. We are deploying staff to Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe to set up systems to help families without access to phone or internet find their missing relatives,” said Diana Araujo, an ICRC delegate deploying to Beira.



  • The ICRC is working closely with the IFRC, the Cruz Vermelha de Moçambique (CVM), the Zimbabwean Red Cross (ZRC) and the Malawian Red Cross (MRC) to provide life-saving and other urgent help to communities affected by the cyclone.
  • A dedicated website in English and Portuguese has been launched to help people find their relatives. The Restoring Family Links website allows people to report that they are alive or that a loved one is missing. More than 200 people, mostly from Mozambique and Zimbabwe, are currently registered on the site as missing. However, this number is likely to rise significantly once services are restored to the many communities without power and internet access.



  • A forensics specialist is working with local authorities to manage the dead in a dignified way.* 
  • An ICRC delegate is setting up a system in Beira with the Mozambique Red Cross to register and search for missing people, an effort that will be expanded to other affected areas as access improves.
  • A logistical base will be set up in Chimoio, near the Zimbabwean border, to mobilize assistance for remote communities that are yet to receive assistance. These are communities that the ICRC was serving in Mozambique prior to Cyclone Idai. A plane is arriving in Chimoio from Nairobi on 22 March with relief supplies.
  • 1,000 liters of fuel were provided to the main hospital in Beira to help it run on generator-power. Medical supplies and medicines are being distributed to health facilities.


Zimbabwe and Malawi

  • Medicines and medical supplies are being sent to support health facilities in eastern Zimbabwe. The ICRC staff are deploying to work with the Red Cross societies in Malawi and Zimbabwe to help register missing people and reconnect separated family members.



  • The ICRC is deeply concerned about rural communities that are cut-off by landslides and flood-waters. The Mozambican town of Buzi, 60 kilometers from Beira, has reportedly disappeared, with the water as high as the palm trees. Residents are expected to be trapped.
  • With more than one million people affected, we can expect that thousands of people are searching for their loved ones, unsure if they are alive, injured or dead. Emergency relief efforts like water, medical care, food and shelter are vital, but the agony of not knowing what happened to your loved one is agonizing, which is why we are focusing a lot of our efforts in setting up a system to register and search for missing people.
  • Four of the seven prisons in Sofala province were heavily damaged by the cyclone, including in Buzi where around 40 prisoners and prison staff are trapped on the roof, without food and water. Many of the prisoners have no news of their loved ones.
  • Beira and the surrounding areas are still flooded. There are reports of corpses in rivers and other bodies of water. A system needs to be made to catalogue the dead so that families have a chance of identifying their loved ones and having closure. Our forensics team will be working closely with authorities on this.*
  • The humanitarian needs will, tragically, only deepen in the coming weeks. Flooding creates fertile ground for disease outbreaks such as cholera. The rains also washed away agricultural lands, leaving communities with nothing to harvest and in need of food assistance. This is in addition to the immediate and enormous needs aid organizations are faced with meeting today, such as shelter, clean water, medical care, food and household items.


For interviews and further information on our response, please contact:

Manuel Mabuiange, ICRC Beira, +258 84 7345 420 and +258 86 081 3271

Tendayi Sengwe, ICRC Pretoria, +27 66476 4446

Crystal Ashley Wells, ICRC Nairobi, +254 716 897 265


*Updates were made on 24 March 2019