AFRICOM to Respond to Cyclone Disaster in Mozambique

People are rescued by boat after being stranded by Cyclone Idai on March 22, 2019 in Buzi, Mozambique.  (Photo by Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images)
People are rescued by boat after being stranded by Cyclone Idai on March 22, 2019 in Buzi, Mozambique. (Photo by Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images)

Troops from Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa are on the ground in Mozambique, supporting the country's government as it recovers from a deadly cyclone that has killed hundreds and destroyed thousands of homes.

Task force personnel under U.S. Africa Command are working with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to assess the devastation wrought by Cyclone Idai, which struck Mozambique 12 days ago, destroying the port city of Beira and hundreds of villages before tearing through neighboring Malawi and Zimbabwe.

The storm has left at least 700 dead and affected 2.7 million people. Relief agencies are in a race against time to provide humanitarian aid to those who remain isolated or are living in overcrowded shelters, where poor sanitation and limited access to water may put them at risk for cholera, malaria and other deadly diseases.

In a prepared statement, Marine Corps Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, head of U.S. Africa Command, said the task force is actively working with the Pentagon, State Department and USAID to provide assistance.

"U.S. Africa Command is actively monitoring and assessing the situation while positioning assets to support the Government of the Republic of Mozambique," he said.

The Pentagon has approved up to $6.5 million in humanitarian and disaster funding for the response, which began Friday and is authorized for up to 10 days. An AFRICOM spokeswoman added that an operations order is expected in the next few days that will determine the number of personnel needed for the emergency and the length of the response.

Elhadj As Sy, secretary general of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, conducted a flyover Friday of the devastation and described large swaths of forests and homes submerged under 30 feet of water.

He visited a school where 3,000 people are living in 15 classrooms with access to just six toilets, a situation repeated at shelters and facilities across Mozambique, he said in a United Nations' press release.

"It's not an exaggeration when I say we are really sitting here on a water, sanitation and hygiene ticking bomb," As Sy said.

-- Patricia Kime can be reached at Patricia.Kime@Military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @patriciakime.

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