A View from the House

20th March 2019

Amidst the Brexit turmoil that engulfs Westminster, we should not forget that there are many other issues of concern too in our Royal Town.

Cyclone Idai has caused the deaths of hundreds and has left at least half a million people homeless with their possessions all but lost, bar the clothes on their back. This disaster has swept across Southern Africa, affecting our commonwealth and suspended commonwealth colleagues.

Hurricane Idai made landfall on 15 March with winds up to 100 miles an hour and a storm surge topping 20 feet. Heavy rains accompanied the storm and have continued - and at the time of writing this article - not expected to end until 21 March according to the Mozambique National Meteorology Institute forecast.

The UN has since made a statement, concluding that hundreds of thousands have been affected and that this is heading towards being the world’s worst weather-related disaster to hit the southern hemisphere. At least 1.7 million people were in the direct path of the cyclone in Mozambique and 920,000 have been affected in Malawi, the UN said. In Zimbabwe, at least 20,000 houses have been partially damaged in the south-eastern town of Chipinge, 600 others were completely destroyed.

An aerial survey of the province showed that a 30 mile stretch of land was under water after the Buzi river burst its banks.

I have read heart-wrenching accounts of people patiently sitting on termite mounds as they await the delivery of essential supplies and primitive rescue operations by officials in canoes. The ongoing flooding in central Mozambique likely means that the major food-producing region of the north is cut off from the heavily populated south, where the capital city of Maputo is located.

There is a big question mark over how the international community will be able to get food and medicines through the wreckages that lie where the busy port city of Beira - which supported the livelihoods of thousands of people - once stood. The collapse of vital infrastructure such as bridges and roads, has made it all but impossible for aid trucks to reach their destinations. The conditions have worryingly even limited air operations.

The dangers of age-old diseases such as cholera have become stark as the flooding caused by the cyclone has contaminated the water supply. But even if you are lucky enough to escape cholera, the risks of starvation and famine are just as substantial with livestock and crops lost.

I also worry that the search and rescue response has reportedly been much slower than during the catastrophe caused by Cyclone Leon-Eline in 2000 despite this disaster deemed to be far more devastating.

That is why, on Wednesday this week in the House of Commons, I led an Urgent Question to request the Government to redouble its efforts in leading the global humanitarian response in aid of our commonwealth family members. The response is boosted by the huge repository of expertise which exists within the Government, particularly in the Department for International Development. This, coupled with the experience of British NGOs and charities - respected across the globe – will, over time, allow countless people to begin rebuilding their livelihoods and children to return to school.

No matter what happens during the course of our withdrawal from the European Union or what Britain might look like in future. I know that Britain’s generosity to those less fortunate than ourselves, will not diminish.