The early hours after Cyclone Idai paint tragic scenes of destruction. Source: Oxfam


Tropical Cyclone Idai is one of the most – if not the most­ – damaging cyclones to hit the Southern hemisphere. In Mozambique, the city of Beira, population 500,000, was 90 percent destroyed and completely cut off from the outside due to flooding. Idai produced a storm surge of more than 14 feet in the city and rainfall was over 8 inches. In Chimoio, more than 24 inches of rain fell.

Idai began as a tropical depression on March 4 and made landfall in Mozambique that day before reemerging into the Mozambique Channel on March 9 and strengthening to a moderate tropical storm the next day. The intense rain during the first landfall led to severe flooding and deaths throughout Mozambique, Madagascar, Malawi and South Africa. In northwestern Madagascar, for example, there were reports of more than 14 inches of rain. Three deaths were reported in Madagascar and 137 homes were damaged. There was also significant infrastructure damage including hospitals, schools, telecommunications and electrical lines. The heavy rains caused flooding in three provinces in Mozambique leaving 66 people dead and 111 injured. Eight hospitals, 938 classrooms and 5,756 homes were destroyed, and 15,467 homes were affected. 17,500 people were displaced and more than 100,000 were affected. In Malawi, 56 people were killed and 577 injured during the first landfall. In South Africa, seven people died.

On March 14, the storm reached peak intensity and had maximum sustained winds of 120 mph. It weakened slightly as it again approached the coast of Mozambique, but it was still a very intense Category 2 tropical cyclone as it made landfall near Beira on March 15. The effects of the strong winds and the heavy rains were felt throughout Malawi, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. While it has again weakened, it is still bringing very heavy rains to the area, especially in Mozambique.

In Zimbabwe, the second landfall also brought heavy rains, especially in the Chimanimani District which saw 8-20 inches. There has been extensive damage and destruction of bridges and roads in the region, causing isolation. In the town of Chipinge, 20,000 homes have been damaged and 600 were destroyed.

Between the two landfalls, approximately 2.6 million people were affected across five countries. The death toll has risen to over 1,000 as of April 15, with a significant increase coming from Zimbabwe. Cholera cases – considered the second disaster – have reached 5,000.

In Mozambique, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) and government sources report the following:

  • Deaths: 602
  • People injured: 1,641
  • The number of houses recorded as destroyed or damaged has increased to more than 239,600 including 111,163 totally destroyed, 112,735 partially destroyed and 15,784 flooded. Meanwhile, the number of internally displaced people living in collective sites was 142,327 as of April 6, according to government figures. Beyond those sheltering in collective sites, many more displaced people are living within host communities and with family.
  • Cholera cases: 4,979 including eight deaths.
  • Crops damaged: 715,378 hectares
  • People affected: 1.85 million


  • People killed: The death toll has risen to 344, a significant increase from last week’s totals (which ranged from 185 by the government to 259 by the UN migration agency). The majority of deaths in Zimbabwe came from landslides.
  • People injured: 200
  • People displaced: 16,000 households
  • People affected: 250,000


  • People killed: 60
  • People injured: 672
  • People displaced: 19,328 households
  • People affected: 868,895

Critical Needs

Foreign philanthropy has been very slow to respond but several local and international nongovernmental (NGOs) are on the ground providing services. The recording for CDP’s webinar Cyclone Idai: Responding to an International Crisis is available for anyone who would like to learn more.

In all disasters, but particularly in international disasters, cash donations are recommended by disaster experts as they allow for on-the-ground agencies to direct funds to the greatest area of need, to support economic recovery and to ensure that donations management does not take away from disaster recovery needs. Immediate needs include direct cash support to organizations providing:

  • Search and rescue efforts
  • Food and nutritional supplies
  • Water and sanitation
  • Medical supplies and personnel
  • Emergency shelter
  • Fuel, electricity, communications technology and other infrastructure needs

While we recognize the importance of the urgent and critical needs in a disaster, experience has shown us that long-term recovery needs, such as housing and economic development, will be present for months and years to come. These countries are still in a search and rescue mode, which will then be followed by more complete damage assessments. Only after these assessments have been completed will the full impact be known.

While CDP does not currently recommend any specific nonprofits, we do encourage donors to consider the following before supporting any organization:

  • Does the organization have a pre-existing relationship in the affected country? This can include working in previous disasters or ongoing program delivery.
  • Does the organization have staff on the ground, including locals who provide cultural, technical and geographic knowledge of the communities and their needs?
  • Has the government requested international assistance and is the organization working through the proper channels (not self-deploying)?
  • Does the organization have a disaster response history and/or provide a necessary service needed in a specific disaster? While a nonprofit may expand the scope of its work to meet communities’ needs, it should not be trying to change its mandate to take financial advantage of the disaster.


CDP launched the CDP Global Recovery Fund, an exclusive fund to meet the ongoing and ever-expanding challenges presented by international disasters, learn more.

CDP has also created a list of suggestions for foundations to consider related to disaster giving. These include:

Take the long view: Even while focusing on immediate needs, remember that it will take some time for the full range of needs to emerge. Be patient in planning for disaster funding. Recovery will take a long time, and funding will be needed throughout.

Recognize there are places private philanthropy can help that government agencies might not: Private funders have opportunities to develop innovative solutions to help prevent or mitigate future disasters that the government cannot execute.

All funders are disaster philanthropists: Even if your organization does not work in a particular geographic area or fund immediate relief efforts, you can look for ways to tie disaster funding into your existing mission. If you focus on education, health, children or vulnerable populations, disasters present prime opportunities.

Ask the experts: If you are considering supporting an organization that is positioned to work in an affected area, do some research. The Center for Disaster PhilanthropyNational Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters, and InterAction have lists of organizations working in affected communities. What’s more, local community foundations have insights into nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that are best suited to respond in a particular community.


If you are a responding NGO or a donor, please send updates on how you are working in this crisis to

If you are a donor looking for recommendations on how to help in this crisis, please email

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