Tropical Cyclone Freddy
Record-breaking Tropical Cyclone Freddy formed on Feb. 3, 2023, northwest of Australia before traveling across the entire Indian Ocean to become the first Category 5 storm of this Southwest Indian Ocean cyclone season.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, no tropical cyclones have taken such a path across the Indian Ocean in the past two decades. On March 7, Freddy became the longest-lived tropical cyclone ever recorded and is now officially Earth’s most energetic storm ever observed.
Cyclone Freddy made landfall on Madagascar’s eastern coast, near Mananjary, on Feb. 21. Freddy then moved across the Mozambique Channel and made landfall in Mozambique’s Inhambane province on Feb. 24.
Cyclone Freddy made its third landfall in total and its second landfall in Mozambique on March 11 in Zambézia province, with maximum winds of almost 92 miles per hour (148 kilometers per hour). Freddy moved over land as a tropical depression, with a localized center close to the border between Mozambique and the southern tip of Malawi, a landlocked country. Although the system has dissipated, it still generated intense rainfall in the interior of Mozambique and southern Malawi.
The government of Malawi declared a state of disaster in 10 southern districts that have been hardest hit by the storm. The UN Resident Coordinator in Malawi called for urgent coordinated support for affected people. Humanitarian partners are supporting government-led responses in Madagascar, Malawi and Mozambique. The disaster occurred against the backdrop of a cholera outbreak in Mozambique and Malawi, and food insecurity in parts of all three cyclone-affected countries.
(Photo: Flooding in Nsanje District, Malawi following Cyclone Freddy, March 16, 2023. Credit: Malawi Red Cross Society)
What we’re watching: Weekly disaster update, March 20
- As of March 16, Tropical Cyclone Freddy had killed more than 500 people in Malawi, Mozambique and Madagascar since it first made landfall in Africa in late February. In Malawi alone, the death toll rose to 507, with at least 537 people still missing, as of March 22. A mudslide in Malawi’s Cilobwe township in Blantyre district killed at least 85.
- In southern Malawi, Cyclone Freddy displaced at least 553,614 people, many of whom are sheltering in 543 sites.
- According to Save the Children, more than 490,000 children in Malawi are unable to attend school due to damage caused by Cyclone Freddy.
- Cyclone Freddy’s second landfall affected some 253,466 people across Mozambique’s Zambezia, Sofala, Tete, Manica and Niassa provinces. This is in addition to the 239,000 people affected by floods and Freddy’s first landfall. UNOCHA says 886,000 people in Mozambique are affected by a combination of cholera, flooding and Freddy.
- Nearly 299,000 people have been affected in Madagascar, with 226,000 in the southeast, and over 72,600 in the southwest.
- In Mozambique, rainfall from Freddy reached more than 23 inches (600 millimeters) in some places.
- The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that more than 300 health facilities have been destroyed or flooded in Madagascar, Malawi and Mozambique. Public health risks have increased.
According to UNOCHA, damage to agriculture in Mozambique is a concern “as 92,000 hectares [227,336 acres] of crops have been affected including in areas where 400,000 people are already food insecure.”
All three affected countries were experiencing food insecurity prior to Cyclone Freddy which may be worsened by the disaster. According to the Famine Early Warning Systems Network in their March 2023 Food Assistance Outlook Brief, Madagascar, Malawi and Mozambique will experience varying levels of acute food insecurity by September 2023.
In Malawi, Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders says the medical needs are immense. They redirected some staff from their regular project for cervical cancer to assist emergency teams at the Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital. Additionally, the convergence of multiple crises is compounding a severe humanitarian situation, especially in Mozambique and Malawi. In Mozambique, the disaster damaged at least 52 health units. The WHO reports that more than 300 health facilities were destroyed or flooded in Madagascar, Malawi and Mozambique.
The threat of a resurgence of cholera remains a serious concern in Malawi as the country endured its largest outbreak last year. In Mozambique, the cholera outbreak continues to spread, with the number of confirmed cholera cases reaching nearly 8,500 as of March 12.
Infrastructure and housing damage
Damage assessments are ongoing but early reports indicate significant impacts on infrastructure and housing that will negatively impact access to affected populations and create shelter needs.
According to Malawi’s DoDMA in their March 15 Situation Report, “Public infrastructure such as schools, health facilities, and district and main roads have been damaged in all affected districts.” Additionally, “Most of the areas across the affected districts remain inaccessible, making it difficult for the councils to conduct rapid assessments to establish the total number of people affected by the Cyclone.”
Mozambique’s National Institute for Disaster Risk Management (INGD) reported that more than 48,000 houses were partially or totally destroyed and around 1,561 classrooms were also damaged. Additionally, the cyclone caused significant damage to health centers, water and sanitation systems, and roads. For example, the main road that runs north-south in Mozambique is flooded just north of Quelimane city in Zambezia province.
The Madagascar Red Cross says the cyclone damaged or destroyed many public and private buildings. Yet, according to UNOCHA, while buildings are flooded in the cities of Morombe and Toliara, the impact of the storm was less than expected in Madagascar and there’s little visible wind damage in the villages along the western coast.
As with most disasters and emergencies, cash donations are recommended by disaster experts as they allow for on-the-ground agencies to direct funds to the most significant area of need, support economic recovery and ensure donation management does not detract from disaster recovery needs and quickly re-establishing access to basic needs.
The Center for Disaster Philanthropy recommends cash both as a donation method and a recovery strategy. Direct cash assistance can allow families to purchase items and services that address their multiple needs. It gives each family flexibility and choice, ensuring that support is relevant and timely. Cash-based approaches to disaster recovery also give people the freedom to choose how they rebuild their lives and provide a pathway to economic empowerment.
The World Food Programme (WFP) warned of a rapid deterioration of the food security situation in Madagascar in the coming weeks if aid is not provided. WFP said the affected households “are in need of food assistance as well as livelihood support to salvage the agricultural season, including for corn, beans, Bambara peas, market gardening.”
According to UNOCHA, flooding in Mozambique affected crops that were ready to be harvested, impacting food security and people’s main source of income. Food assistance is needed to address potential food insecurity. Humanitarian partners have already sent 20 metric tons of food to Chikwawa district in Malawi to meet increasing food needs.
Support for immediate lifesaving healthcare needs is a priority. Given the damage to some health facilities, restoring access to healthcare for affected people will be needed, as well as medical equipment and supplies.
To mitigate the spread of cholera, increased treatment and access to clean water and sanitation are critical.
If you are a responding NGO or a donor, please send updates on how you are working in this crisis to Tanya Gulliver-Garcia.
(Photo: Damage caused by Cyclone Freddy in Malawi, March 13, 2023. Credit: Malawi Red Cross Society)
If you are a donor looking for recommendations on how to help with disaster recovery, please email Regine A. Webster.
We welcome the republication of our content. Please credit the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.
Philanthropic and government support
The Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP) has supported recovery from various cyclone disaster events. For example, in partnership with Google, CDP awarded $50,000 to Habitat for Humanity International to enable the self-recovery of the affected families that have not received any assistance in response to Tropical Cyclone Seroja.
Humanitarian partners are supporting the government-led responses to Tropical Cyclone Freddy in Madagascar, Malawi and Mozambique.
In Malawi, humanitarian partners are working closely with the Emergency Operations Centre in Blantyre to coordinate the response. Relief items were stockpiled in Blantyre ahead of the storm’s arrival. Government-led search and rescue operations are underway in Blantyre, Chikwawa, Mulanje, Nsanje, Phalombe and Zomba districts. President Lazarus Chakwera of Malawi has appealed to the international community to send urgent help.
Officials from Mozambique’s National Institute for Disaster Risk Management have deployed to the most at-risk provinces. Additionally, Emergency Operational Centers were activated in Manica, Nampula, Niassa, Sofala, Tete and Zambezia provinces.
More ways to help
CDP has also created a list of suggestions for foundations to consider related to disaster giving. These include:
- Prioritize investments in local organizations: Local humanitarian leaders and organizations play a vital role in providing immediate relief and setting the course for long-term equitable recovery in communities after a disaster or crisis. However, these leaders and organizations are mostly under-resourced and underfunded. Grant to locally-led entities as much as possible. When granting to trusted international partners with deep roots in targeted countries, more consideration should be given to those that empower local and national stakeholders.
- 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 while recovery efforts can begin immediately, funding will be needed throughout.
- 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 for funding these target populations or thematic areas.
- Ask the experts: If you are considering supporting an organization that is positioned to work in an affected area, do some research. CDP and InterAction can provide resources and guidance about organizations working in affected communities.
Hurricanes, Typhoons and Cyclones
Hurricanes, also called typhoons or cyclones, bring a triple threat: high winds, floods and possible tornadoes. But there’s another “triple” in play: they’re getting stronger, affecting larger stretches of coastline and more Americans are moving into hurricane-prone areas.
Flooding is our nation’s most common natural disaster. Regardless of whether a lake, river or ocean is actually in view, everyone is at some risk of flooding. Flash floods, tropical storms, increased urbanization and the failing of infrastructure such as dams and levees all play a part — and cause millions (sometimes billions) of dollars in damage across the U.S. each year.
Disasters affect millions of people and cause billions of dollars in damage globally each year. To help understand and manage disasters, practitioners, academics and government agencies frame disasters in phases.