In meteorology the word cyclone does not necessarily indicate a storm. It also refers to an area of low atmospheric pressure surrounded by areas of relatively higher pressures; in the cyclonic area, warm air masses tend to rise, creating cloud systems and unstable weather. In our hemisphere, a cyclonic area rotates counterclockwise, that is, in the opposite direction to the movement of the hands of a clock. Conversely, an anticlone is an area of relatively higher pressure than the surrounding ones, with downward air motions, clockwise wind circulation and clear skies. Cyclones are divided by experts into two broad categories: tropical and extratropical. The former affect countries closer to the equator, the latter more northerly areas. The prerequisites for the formation of a tropical cyclone are: sea water temperature above 26 °C, intense evaporation, the presence of a central area of low pressure surrounded by areas of higher pressure, and converging winds. Extratropical cyclones are larger, between 1,500 and 3,000 km in diameter, but less violent. The triggers are the formation of areas of low pressure and the collision of warm and cold air masses. It seems that, due to the greenhouse effect, the frequency and intensity of cyclones of all types have been increasing in recent decades.
Geologically, the M. territory constitutes the southern section of the Cenozoic-aged Rift system of East Africa. The M. Rift represents a 40- to 90-km-wide tectonic trench extending in a N-S direction for about 800 km, bounded by faults and monoclines and the site of intense seismic activity; its floor is occupied by Lake Malawi and its Shire outflow. The M. territory consists of a flat area extending along the western shore of the lake and extending into the river valley, and a portion of the ridge that separates the lake’s catchment area from those of the Zambezi and the Luangwa tributary, a ridge that rises to more than 2600 m (Nganda, 2606 m); at the extreme S, bordering Mozambique, the tabular relief of the Mulanje Mountains rises to about 3000 m elevation. The tropical climate is affected by elevation zonation, especially with regard to rainfall (concentrated in the summer season, but varying from less than 500 mm annually in lowland areas to more than 1300 in the highlands). Dominant is the flora of arboreal savanna in the lower elevated parts, and sparse forest higher up, heavily attacked and degraded by the expansion of agricultural practices and only partly defended with the establishment of Nyika National Park (3200 km2) and other protected areas.
Millions of children face a potential increase in cholera cases in Malawi and Mozambique as a result of Tropical Cyclone Freddy, which struck both countries for the second time in less than a month. Devastation and flooding caused by the cyclone have added to the severe vulnerabilities of children and families in the country, further weakened by inadequate water and sanitation systems. “Amid the crises and chaos, children are the most vulnerable,” said Mohamed M. Malick Fall, UNICEF Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa. “Cyclone Freddy has had devastating consequences. The lives of many families in Malawi and Mozambique have been turned upside down, leaving them with very little and exposing children and the most vulnerable people in particular to immense risk. UNICEF is working tirelessly with authorities and partners to respond to the immediate needs of children and families.” Across Malawi and Mozambique, flooding and damage caused by the cyclone has resulted in deaths, devastation of infrastructure and social services, and displacement, hampering access to health and other basic services, which will almost certainly exacerbate the cholera outbreaks the two countries are experiencing.
Even before the cyclone, Malawi and Mozambique were among the countries most severely affected by the cholera epidemic, which has caused more than 68,000 cases in 11 countries in the eastern and southern African region this year alone. Mozambique has been facing a cholera epidemic since September 2022, with confirmed cases in 35 districts in 7 provinces and many more likely to be affected. As of March 18, 2023, about 10,000 cases have been reported, triple the number since early February. Mozambique at the same time is responding to several humanitarian crises, with 2 million people in need of humanitarian aid in the country’s northern region, and polio vaccination efforts are underway nationwide. Freddy touched down twice in Mozambique, the first in late February in Inhambane province in central Mozambique and the second on March 12 further north in Zambezia province.
Moving inland, the cyclone then hit southern Malawi hard, causing devastating damage to roads, infrastructure, homes, businesses and health centers, including cholera treatment units and schools in the affected areas. Cholera has already claimed more than 1,660 lives. Add to that the current lean season-where millions of Malawians are expected to be food insecure-children are suffering the most from this crisis. As the planet warms, Malawi is likely to be affected by worse climate-induced risks, such as stronger storms and droughts. Today, an estimated 4.8 million children are in need of humanitarian aid. By the end of March, nearly 250,000 children under the age of five are expected to be affected by acute malnutrition, and more than 62,000 will be severely malnourished. Because a severely malnourished child is 11 times more likely to die of cholera than a well-nourished child, a bout of cholera can be a death sentence for thousands of children in Malawi.
Many countries allocated humanitarian aid to southern Africa after Freddy, with a focus on the humanitarian crisis in Malawi. Items included hygiene supplies, food rations, and safe drinking water, among other things. Total donations reach millions in dollars, and there was also a primary focus on the historic and ongoing cholera epidemic in the region. Pope Francis expressed solidarity and condolences to the victims of the cyclone. Several nations also expressed condolences to Malawi, Mozambique, and Madagascar. United States: announced it would provide emergency shelter materials through Catholic Relief Services; European Union: €200,000 ($213,810) was provided by the EU to help support victims of the system. Subsequently, the EU provided another €1.3 million for Mozambique, €700,000 for Malawi, and €500,000 for Madagascar. They also released $5.5 million to Malawi from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) on March 19; Zambia: provided several basic necessities as well as 100 tons of maize to Malawi. It also sent two planes for relief aid; UK: provided a search and rescue team of 6 people (and 17 from an EMT group) to Malawi on March 27. They also provided emergency shelters to 3,600 citizens and safe drinking water to 12,750. They also gave the country specialized boats.