Recovering after Cyclone Idai

Families in Malawi lost their homes to devastating floods when Cyclone Idai made landfall in March 2019.

Have a look at how they used tools and materials to start rebuilding their homes and their lives.

Families lost everything

When Cyclone Idai tore through southern Africa in March 2019, it separated parents and children, ripped up homes and destroyed livelihoods. 

In Malawi the flooding devastated land, livestock and homes. Vast areas were left uninhabitable, homes were completely destroyed and thousands of people were at risk of dangerous diseases like cholera and malaria.

Key facts about Cyclone Idai

How did we support families?

In the months that followed Cyclone Idai, we worked with our partners Habitat for Humanity to provide emergency shelter for families in Malawi who were affected the most.

Nearly 2,000 families received shelter kitswater filters and carriersmosquito netssolar lights, and blankets.

That’s around 10,000 people with a place to call home thanks to your support.

Who was affected?

Small family in a collective centre after Cyclone Idai in Malawi
"The rains were so heavy - there was so much water flooding our house. Then it just completely washed away. So we had to run. I thought that we would die because I had to pick up my children on my shoulders. The water was almost at my neck level."

It is estimated that over 100,000 homes were damaged or destroyed by Cyclone Idai, along with 1 million acres of crops.

We visited several villages and camps in southern Malawi. One of the villages was completely swamped by the flooding with homes flattened and buried in mud, forcing the whole community to abandon it. Families like Petro’s (pictured) had no choice but to flee.

But, with your support, we supported families with essential aid that allowed them to start rebuilding their lives.

Families whose homes were swept away showed incredible resilience and strength, building temporary shelters with the few materials they could salvage so they could feel safe again.

Meet some of the people we spoke to in Malawi.

A story of home

“As for now, the sun rises. One goes to the farm, one stays at the house and the children go to school. Life is getting restored. Now we are living on higher land, we are living without worries. I feel at home, without any hesitation.” 

This is a story of recovery. Having lost everything after Cyclone Idai, Stephano and Mary were determined to rebuild their livelihoods, together with the rest of the community in Mwalija.

Have a look at how tools and essential aid are providing communities like Mwalija the confidence to start the long process of recovery.

Behind the lens

Six months after Cyclone Idai tore through southern Africa, we returned to visit some of the communities we had supported.

We wanted to understand what the recovery process has been like. Learn more about how we approached the community.

Joined by renowned photographer, Sian Davey, and filmmaker Benn Berkley, we documented Mwalija village’s journey of self-recovery.

Sian Davey

Award winning photographer, Sian Davey is known for her intimate photographs documenting her own family.

This time with the team here at ShelterBox, Sian turned her lens on one community in Malawi to celebrate how they have successfully rebuilt their family lives after disaster.

The series caputres everyday activities that have been re-estabilished, including baptisms, going to school, community meetings, the local shop, and of course, play and relaxing together.

Explore the community

How did we support families?

Soon after Cyclone Idai made landfall, a ShelterBox team was deployed in Malawi.

Downpours had already been affecting the region for weeks before Idai struck, causing severe floods. This came after a period of severe drought, making the conditions even worse.

We worked tirelessly with our partner Habitat for Humanity to provide emergency aid to nearly 2,000 families in Malawi.

Watch the full video series on how we responded on our YouTube playlist here.

Aid items families received

Woman from Malawi stands in front of emergency shelter after Cyclone Idai
"I'm very pleased to have this shelter - thank you" - Modestar

Modestar and her family were just one of the thousands of families in Malawi who lost their home after Cyclone Idai swept away everything in its path.

Families like Modestar’s transformed their aid items to a new home.

I’m very pleased to have this shelter – thank you.

Have a look at how the aid items have helped Modestar with the process of recovering.

Facts about Cyclone Idai

When and where did Cyclone Idai make landfall? 

Starting on March 14, Cyclone Idai first made landfall in the city of Beira, Mozambique.

The storm devastated Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe with torrential rains and winds of over 100mph.

How much damage did Cyclone Idai cause? 

It was estimated by the UN that Cyclone Idai and the subsequent flooding caused damages in infrastructure worth over $1 billion.

Over 100,000 homes were completely destroyed or damaged. At least 1 million acres of crops have been also destroyed.

Cyclone Idai Map

How many people were affected by the cyclone and flooding? 

It is estimated that around 3 million people were affected by Cyclone Idai across Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe.

Thousands of people have been infected with dangerous insect-borne diseases like cholera and malaria.

What was the death toll after Cyclone Idai? 

The death toll from the devastating cyclone is estimated to be over 1,000 people.

How did Cyclone Idai get its name? 

Various meteorological organisations have responsibility for names and follow different conventions.

Usually, a storm is named when it reaches tropical storm strength.

For cyclones that form in the South-west Indian Ocean, like Idai, the names are pre-defined following an alphabetical order and alternating between male and female names (

For example, the cyclone preceding Idai was Haleh, and then one proceeding it was Joaninha.

How did ShelterBox support people affected by Cyclone Idai? 

ShelterBox has provided shelter and essential aid items to over 2,000 families affected by the cyclone and flooding in Malawi. Find out more.

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