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


Tropical Cyclone Idai was the third deadliest cyclone to hit the Southern hemisphere. More than 1,000 people were killed and with thousands still missing the true death toll may never be known. After two landfalls, approximately 2.6 million people were affected across five countries. Cholera cases – considered the second disaster – affected close to 7,500 people and thousands more were vaccinated. There were also nearly 27,000 malaria cases in Sofala province.

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  again weakened, it  brought very heavy rains to the area, especially in Mozambique, for several days.

In Zimbabwe, the second landfall also brought heavy rains, especially in the Chimanimani District which saw 8-20 inches. There was 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.

In Mozambique, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) reported that as of May 20, 2019 there were still 1.85 million people in need including nearly 13,000 still in accommodation centers due to the loss of their homes. Beyond those sheltering in collective sites, many more displaced people are living within host communities and with family members. More than 1.6 million people have been reached with WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) services in Sofala province. While 1,100 classroom facilities have been repaired, there is still much work to do. More than 1.8 million were reached with food assistance and 550,000 children were screened for malnutrition.


  • People killed: The death toll hit 344 although there were still people missing. 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 organizations (NGOs) are on the ground providing services. On June 1, the United Nations Development Programme announced that international donors had committed $1.2 billion for recovery in Mozambique, following a two-day pledging conference. This is approximately half the estimated $3.2 billion total required following Cyclones Kenneth and Idai in Mozambique. 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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