Operation Sahayata: Indian Navy Extends Support during Africa’s Hour of Need
Dr Neha Sinha, Associate Fellow, VIF

In the aftermath of the Category 4 Cyclone 'IDAI' that lashed Mozambique, the cyclone moved further deep into the continent causing enormous destruction and swamping the people of Zimbabwe and Malawi. It is to be noted that this cyclone in the Southern Hemisphere is one among the worst weather-related calamities in living history. Around 1.7 million people have been affected in Mozambique and 920,000 affected in neighboring countries. The storm and flood has left the survivors hunting and excavating through rough fragments of stone, brick and concrete to search for victims. In all the three countries the situation remains critical and thousands of people are still caught by the flood waters, while several are concentrated on rooftops and in trees waiting to be rescued. Cyclone ‘IDAI’ made landfall on 15th March, with winds up to 100 miles an hour and storm surge topping 20 feet. Heavy rains accompanied the storm left many survivors hungry, homeless, injured and scrambling for food, water and shelter. Moreover, with the situation getting worse the governments of the affected nations and the aid agencies have scuttled for help.

The Government of India, in this hour of misfortune, has extended its support to the affected region and people. Soon after the very first country Mozambique was hit by the cyclone - three Indian Navy ships in the Indian Ocean were diverted to the African country for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR). Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) confirmed "Over the last several days, the three Indian ships - INS Sujata, ICGS Sarathi and INS Shardul - are undertaking relief and rescue activities in coordination with the local authorities and the High Commission of India, Maputo" (MEA, 2019). The ships that were sent had three medical practitioners and five nurses to give instant medical relief to the victims. Furthermore, INS Magar, another ship loaded with relief materials like medicines, ready-to-eat foods, dry provisions, clothes and other daily needs was sent to Mozambique to undergo humanitarian assistance and disaster relief action. In all the three majorly affected countries - Malawi, Zimbabwe and Mozambique thousands of people have died and are left homeless, hence, the ship that was sent also carried five hundred kilograms of epidemic related medicines and four hundred tonnes of rice to feed the population.

In addition to the extensive damage to the country’s infrastructure, the cyclone has caused a geographical shift too. Although the exact numbers of people who lost their lives has yet not been determined, but so far after gathering information from different sources the number is said to be undoubtedly large. Such devastation has attracted international response too. The UAE’s Vice-President and Prime Minister along with the rulers of Dubai have sent private jets and planes to assist and provide aid to the victims. European Union has sent nearly $4 million USD and United Kingdom has sent shelter kits and family tents as many people are still stranded and have no means to livelihood. A lot more is needed to be done as the affected countries need a sustained support from international community and from the government. There is also a need to restore public infrastructure, water sanitation, and electricity in order to avoid spread of water-borne diseases.

The United Nations’ humanitarian office has already warned of more flooding which has led to several water borne diseases in the affected areas. There have been reports of cholera from Beira and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have also made people aware of the risk of the spread of other infectious disease (BBC, 2019). World Health Organization warned that such unpleasant and miserable conditions can result in mushrooming of infectious diseases. The U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres mentioned that the United Nations and its humanitarian partners are "scaling up the response with the initial funding from generous donors." Furthermore, he said that despite releasing $20 million USD for aid and assistance, greater cooperation and international support is needed (VOA 2019). According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), most of the tropical activity in the southern west region of the Indian Ocean prevails in between October and May with a rise in the activity in mid-January and February to early March. Cyclone ‘IDAI’ is the seventh enormous tropical cyclone of the basin’s 2018-2019 season (Stephen Leahy, 2019). Apart from the Indian Navy being the first responders to the crises, according to MEA - IN Helicopter Chetak was also sent to the region to provide assistance in enabling aerial survey with help of the Mozambique’s Disaster Management officials.

India and Africa have shared warm and cordial relations. Africa is top priority for India, hence, in this hour of tragedy, the Government of India remains prepared to reach out to the affected people by providing humanitarian support and assistance.

Endnotes:

Image Source: https://thediplomat.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/thediplomat-indian-navy-sujata-aid-mozambique-386x257.jpg

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