The worst humanitarian disaster of 2019 so far, time to “chill out” on DFID merger rumors, and big plans for a tiny island. This week in development:
Relief groups are scrambling to respond to Cyclone Idai, the worst natural disaster of the year so far, which has caused massive flooding, landslides, and destruction in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Malawi. More than 200 deaths have been reported in Mozambique so far, though officials fear a much higher death toll as the impacts of the storm continue to materialize, and as responders still struggle for access to affected areas. The U.S. Agency for International Development is deploying a disaster assistance response team to the area and mobilized $700,000 for emergency flooding relief, while NGOs are calling on international donors to make more emergency funding available. Early responders to some of the worst-affected areas stress they still don’t have a clear picture of the medical needs, having been unable to reach health centers, but many fear that lack of access to fresh water and the spread of water-borne diseases will present some of the biggest threats in the near future. In addition, continued heavy rain in the area is likely to increase flooding, while leaving people whose homes have been destroyed exposed to the elements. “It is still raining right inside people’s houses, so pneumonia and other respiratory diseases are going to be a problem. And many people have gathered in schools or churches, where respiratory diseases can easily spread,” Gert Verdonck, Médecins Sans Frontières’ emergency coordinator in Beira, Mozambique, said in a statement.
The U.K.’s aid chief wants everyone to “chill out” about concerns that the Department for International Development could be absorbed by another government office. “There are no plans at all for DFID to be hoovered up by another government department or turned into something else … People need to calm down and chill out about that,” Secretary of State Penny Mordaunt told attendees at the Bond conference in London on Monday. Mordaunt also pushed back on recent concerns that the government might be willing to revisit the country’s commitment to dedicate 0.7 percent of its gross national income to aid spending. Her remarks come after a series of previous statements that some aid advocates found worrying, and proposals by other politicians and lobbying groups to fold the department into the country’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office.
The Asian Development Bank’s newest member is Niue, a tiny island in the South Pacific. With a population of just over 1,600, Niue’s economy depends heavily on remittances from the more than 24,000 Niueans living in New Zealand, and from nearly $10 million a year in aid from New Zealand’s government. The small island nation also finds itself the subject of increasing interest, as Australia and China both seek to exert their influence in the South Pacific region. China has spent millions on road construction on the island, and last year Niue signed a memorandum of understanding to join its Belt and Road Initiative. Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced plans for new diplomatic posts in the South Pacific, including on Niue, as part of the nation’s so-called “Pacific pivot.” ADB plans to work with the island’s government to determine its investment priorities and creditworthiness, with expectations that renewable energy could be one area of focus.