Cyclone Aid Arrives in Southern Africa 03/20 06:20

Cyclone Aid Arrives in Southern Africa 03/20 06:20

   NEW YORK (AP) -- International aid has started trickling into the east 
African countries of Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi to ease the humanitarian 
crisis created by floodwaters from Cyclone Idai.

   Relief efforts that were initially stifled by airport closures slowly gained 
steam Tuesday, and foreign governments began pledging aid to help the region 
recover from the worst flooding in decades.

   "Everyone is doubling, tripling, quadrupling whatever they were planning," 
said Caroline Haga of the Red Cross in Beira, Mozambique, referring to supplies 
and aid workers. "It's much larger than anyone could ever anticipate."

   The European Union released 3.5 million euros ($3.9 million) in emergency 
aid, and the United Kingdom pledged up to 6 million pounds ($7.9 million). 
Neighboring Tanzania's military airlifted 238 tons of food and medicine.

   Matthew Pickard of the humanitarian organization CARE said the response to 
Idai has been similar to prior natural disasters. Local authorities and 
international non-governmental organizations worked their way to the area in 
the first days, with additional aid destined to arrive soon after. The 
slow-moving catastrophe of the flooding and the inability to access some of the 
hardest-hit areas has limited the ability of some to see the scale of the 
cyclone. But, Pickard said, as those details become clearer, aid will spike.

   "Over the next few days we'll learn just how big it is," he said by phone 
from Lilongwe, Malawi. "These are countries that are not usually making 
headlines and they're making headlines. With the story comes people's intent to 
respond empathetically."

   Sacha Myers of the nonprofit Save the Children, speaking from Maputo, 
Mozambique, described rising floodwaters, "rivers and dams bursting their 
banks" and a death toll in the hundreds that was destined to climb.

   She was awaiting the arrival of a cargo plane carrying 51 tons of emergency 
supplies, but said getting them where they needed to go remained difficult with 
roads washed away or submerged and few options for storage in dry areas.

   "We're having an unfolding crisis that's getting worse and worse," she said.

   The United Nations was deploying resources too, deputy spokesman Farhan Haq 
said, but logistics remained challenging and the hardest hit areas, including 
Chimanimani, Zimbabwe, remained inaccessible.

   As better data emerges from the disaster zone, donors will be standing by to 
make money and other resources such as medicine available, said Dr. E. Anne 
Peterson of the nonprofit health organization Americares.

   "It's early and a really big disaster gets attention fast, and the more 
media covers it, the more people realize there is a need and the more likely we 
are to see them getting engaged," she said.

   Ilan Noy, chair in the economics of disasters at Victoria University of 
Wellington, New Zealand, said aid was likely to flow from dozens of countries 
to the African nations. How much is pledged and when, he said, correlates to 
the media coverage a given disaster gets, not to mention factors such as the 
geostrategic interests and previous colonial ties of an affected country. 
Ultimately, the dollar figures that are announced can bear little meaning, with 
the numbers typically stand-ins for the value of salaries and supplies sent 
overseas.

   "They don't have enough helicopters or they don't have enough doctors," Noy 
offered as an example. "In that emergency phase, it doesn't really matter how 
you count it. You need resources. You don't need cash."


(KA)

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