With Extreme Weather On The Rise, We Are Failing To Adequately Prepare Communities

Review of Cyclone Idai response shows gaps in building future resilience in the wake of disasters 

London, UK (March 16, 2020) – Despite extreme weather events predicted to become more frequent and more intense, not enough is being done to prepare and reduce risk to communities, says new research from the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance, of which the global organization Mercy Corps is a member.

Highlighting lessons learned from Cyclones Idai and Kenneth, which struck southern Africa in March and April 2019, the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance (ZFRA) is releasing a “Post Event Review Capability (PERC)” study that outlines recommendations for governments, international agencies and others to help frontline communities manage the escalating effects of the climate crisis.  

The most devastating cyclone ever to hit Africa, Cyclone Idai caused the largest humanitarian disaster of 2019. Strong winds, severe flooding, and landslides resulted in more than 1,300 deaths, over $2 billion in damages and affected over 3 million people. One year on, basic needs, including shelter and food assistance, are still pressing. 

“In the immediate aftermath of Cyclone Idai, humanitarian aid had some success in meeting the urgent needs of people affected, however, major gaps remain in helping communities recover and build back. This requires the inclusion of disaster risk reduction thinking into programs and policies. Large-scale climatic events are only going to escalate, and we are missing opportunities to adequately prepare communities”, says Ann Vaughan, Senior Advisor, Mercy Corps.

Five weeks of research by ZFRA partners Zurich Insurance, I-SET International, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent and Practical Action across Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, including 100 interviews with stakeholders such as community members, government and UN agencies, found: 

  • Proactive engagement in risk reduction is needed to prevent extensive loss of life, loss of development gains, and costly humanitarian response. 
  • Humanitarian responses need to be fully funded and coupled with significant long-term development investments that consider the repercussions and risks of a changing climate, particularly for climate change vulnerable communities. 
  • Investments, including Early Warning Systems, must reach local levels. If not, the lives and livelihoods of local communities are effectively unprotected. 
  • Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) approaches can serve as a useful bridge between the humanitarian and development sectors and can help to ensure that all relevant sectors incorporate longer-term thinking about risk and climate.  

Mercy Corps is a global organization working in over 40 countries around the world, and has been working In Zimbabwe since 2002. When Cyclone Idai struck in March 2019, we immediately responded to humanitarian needs in the aftermath, and are supporting people to rebuild their lives and livelihoods. 

The Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance is a multi-sector partnership focusing on finding practical ways to help communities strengthen their resilience to floods globally.