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What does response look like after Cyclone Freddy?

In the aftermath of Cyclone Freddy’s devastating impact in Malawi and Mozambique, what needs to be done now?

Written by Tarryn Pegna | 21 Mar 2023

A road damaged by Cyclone Freddy.

Cyclone Freddy has damaged roads in Malawi, making it harder to access communities affected by flooding. Credit: Thomas, Eagles District Coordinator for Chikwawa

Cyclone Freddy was probably the longest-lived tropical storm on record. The World Meteorological Organization has yet to confirm this, but it looks likely to do so. The cyclone was strong enough to be officially classified as a tropical system for at least 36 days. It wreaked havoc across large areas of southern Africa, with its worst effects felt in Malawi, Madagascar and Mozambique – which it hit not once, but twice.

Six months’ worth of rain fell in just six days across parts of Mozambique and Malawi.

State of emergency

In Malawi, a state of emergency was declared and a period of mourning after 499 people were killed, 427 were still missing as at 20 March 2023, and 114,637 households had been displaced – about 508,244 people. More than 840 people were also reported injured.

The cyclone was also devastating in Mozambique, where 165 people have died and it’s estimated that 886,467 people have been affected. Damage to infrastructure has been severe. Around 103,000 houses were destroyed, and about 25,000 more flooded. Health facilities, schools and water supply systems have been damaged or destroyed and more than 5,000 Kilometres of roads have been damaged or affected.

‘Six months' worth of rain fell in six days’

By 20 March, some areas were still not accessible except by boat.

Many water and sanitation hygiene facilities have been destroyed. Under any circumstances, a lack of toilets and clean water would be a serious problem, but this is even more of a concern because of the cholera outbreak that was already affecting many thousands of people in the region. The flooding has greatly increased the risk of its spread and new cases have been reported already.

It has also increased the risk of other diseases spreading – such as dysentery, typhoid, malaria and diarrhoea.

Tearfund is responding to some of the immediate needs in the region, but the scale is massive and, as Edgar Jone, Tearfund’s Country Director in Mozambique explained to Times Radio on Sunday morning [listen from 00:38:46], the needs will go way beyond an immediate response to the mammoth task of rebuilding lives and livelihoods after people have had houses, livestock, farms and vital infrastructure destroyed.

What does an emergency response look like?

When a disaster like this happens, the scale of the needs and response can seem overwhelming. To give you a practical insight into what is involved, we’re sharing some of the information compiled by the government response to the situation in Malawi. This is being supported in various ways by external agencies, including Tearfund.

The situation outlined below is very similar to that in Mozambique at the moment.

As you read through the brief overview of the impact and needs below, take a moment to pray for each of these areas and the responses that will affect people facing such a traumatic experience.

A state of disaster

On 13 March, a state of disaster was declared in the 14 districts of Malawi that were severely affected by the cyclone. An Emergency Operation Centre was set up at the World Food Programme (WFP) offices in Blantyre to coordinate the emergency response.

Most critical needs

As of 20 March, search and rescue efforts, assisted by teams from neighbouring countries such as South Africa as well as a team from the UK, were continuing in areas where people had been trapped by flooding and mudslides.

Already, 123 people had been rescued by search and rescue teams!

Search recovery also continues for those who have been killed by the mudslides.

‘123 people were rescued by search and rescue teams.’

Humanitarian Response


Distribution of food and essential non-food items has begun for the 508,244 people who have lost their homes. Many have taken shelter in the 534 camps set up for those who have lost their homes and belongings.


  • Shelter materials such as tents, housing, tarpaulins or plastic sheets
  • Sanitation facilities such as toilets
  • Medical supplies and doctors/nurses
  • Sleeping materials – mattresses, blankets etc
  • Food
  • Safe drinking water

Water and Sanitation Hygiene (WASH)


At least 175,891 people have been left in urgent need of improved access to clean and safe water and sanitation services.

This is particularly important in light of the cholera outbreak.


  • Water purifying kits and water quality testing sets
  • Trucks, fuel, storage tanks for water and all related allowances for water distribution
  • Emergency toilets, bathing units and waste bins
  • Cleaning essentials such as soaps, buckets, cleaning materials (brooms, mops, etc), tarpaulins, and disinfectants
  • Sanitation and hygiene promotion including handwashing facilities and menstrual hygiene packages
‘At least 175,891 people in Malawi have been left in urgent need of improved access to clean and safe water and sanitation services.’



At least 437 schools (around 139,929 students) have been affected and 242 schools are being used as camps for people who have lost their homes.

(In Mozambique, over 1,000 schools have been impacted by the flooding.)


  • Safe temporary learning spaces
  • Water and sanitation facilities
  • Psychosocial support after the traumatic experiences many students have faced
  • Food 
A road damaged by Cyclone Freddy.

Many roads in Malawi and Mozambique have been damaged by Cyclone Freddy, making responding to urgent needs more difficult. Credit: Thomas, Eagles District Coordinator for Chikwawa



The cyclone has damaged or washed away an estimated area of 34,517 Ha (or 133 square miles) of crops in Malawi. A similar size area has been affected in Mozambique.


  • Seeds
  • Fertiliser
  • Irrigation equipment
  • Technical support
  • Cash support to restart farming after such intense losses

Food Security


The estimated 508,244 who have lost their homes and belongings have also lost their food reserves. A large number of these people are in hard-to-reach areas due to road/infrastructure being damaged or submerged and making the areas inaccessible to motor vehicles.

Many marketplaces remain inaccessible or do not have sufficient food stocks and prices across the Southern Region have on average increased by 300 per cent compared to the same time last year. In some areas, maize is already 75 per cent more expensive than a month before Cyclone Freddy.


  • Essential food items such as: maize/maize flour, corn soya blend, cooking oil, pulses (beans, peas etc), soya pieces, dry fish/kapenta, sugar and salt
  • Items such as cups, pots and plates
‘Around 103,000 homes were destroyed in Mozambique.’

Transport and Logistics


Severe damage to roads because of flooding and landslides are reported along many major and secondary routes, which has made it very difficult to get emergency supplies to many affected communities.

Healthcare and medical response


In total, 81 healthcare facilities have been affected. Seven centres have collapsed or flooded, and 74 are able to function but are not accessible. For example, one hospital in Chikwawa, which serves over 60,000 people, has been closed for six days due to floods.

Safeguarding and protection


With many women, teenage girls and children in shelters, there is an increased risk of sexual violence. Children who have been orphaned or separated from their parents by the flooding are in many of the camps. The usual infrastructures and agencies that would provide protection are overwhelmed and overstretched.

Tearfund Response

Tearfund’s local partners and the church have been responding – initially through helping to provide shelter, food, clean water and trauma support for some of the people in Mozambique and Malawi who have lost homes, livelihoods and loved ones. 

Please pray with us for those affected by Cyclone Freddy

    • Take a moment to consider each of the categories above where there has been an impact and needs have arisen. Ask God to provide what is needed in each case.
    • Pray for all those responding – from local government to local churches and every other agency. Ask God to give them strength, resilience and wisdom as they address the needs created by Cyclone Freddy.
    • Lift up every person affected by the cyclone. Ask for comfort as they face what has been lost.

Written by

Written by  Tarryn Pegna

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