SANDF continues rescue mission in Malawi, Mozambique


The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) says it is continuing its relief efforts in flood-ravaged Malawi and Mozambique.

This follows the devastation caused by tropical cyclone Idai, which made landfall across areas in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe, leaving a trail of destruction, death and total displacements of communities.

Having been deployed on 16 March by the President Cyril Ramaphosa to support flood relief efforts with the United Nations, joint inter-departmental, inter-agency and other multinational organisations in Mozambique and Malawi, the SANDF conducted search and rescue missions in support of other humanitarian agencies.

Using its air platforms, the SANDF is also engaged in multilateral efforts to provide lifesaving and sustenance supplies to areas cut-off by the devastating cyclone.

“The SANDF was critical to all agencies operating in the area in that it provided air-lifts to assist in most low-lying areas, including Beira in Mozambique, which saw entire villages submerged under water, with death toll rising and many people unaccounted for,” the SANDF said in a statement.

To date, the SANDF has done the following:

  • Friday, 15 March: When the SANDF was called upon to assist in support of the humanitarian efforts in both Malawi and Mozambique, which were facing serious floods, a light aircraft of the South African Air Force – with a team of specialists on board – was dispatched to these areas to conduct assessments to assist on the ground for humanitarian purposes.
  • Saturday, 16 March: Following a successful assessment in both countries, the assessment team deemed it safe to first deploy a team of 10 military health practitioners with search and rescue air assets to Malawi as weather conditions were not as dire as other areas. Consequently, two military aircraft — an Oryx medium utility helicopter and a CASA-212 light transport aircraft — were pledged and despatched to Malawi.
  • Sunday, 17 March: With persistent storm, rains and wind in Mozambique, the SANDF managed to land the first team in Beira to commence with groundwork in preparation for other humanitarian relief organs to make their way to the area. Two Oryrx helicopters were deployed and are still operating in the area; one A109 light helicopter was deployed for search and rescue; a C-212 was used for personnel and equipment transport; and a PC-12 aircraft was used for reconnaissance.
  • Monday, 18 March to Saturday, 23 March: A total of 82 personnel were deployed to Mozambique on different dates, ranging from health practitioners, cargo carriers, air crews and health specialists such as doctors, psychologists and environmentalists.

To date, two heavy cargo aircraft were dispatched to both Malawi and Mozambique to deliver medical supplies, meals and other equipment to support these humanitarian efforts.

Between 18 and 24 March, the SANDF rescued 417 people, assisted 11 with critical medical conditions, airlifted 30 to medical facilities and transported 7 500 kg of cargo.

Scores of people were taken to places of safety by the SANDF personnel supported by elements from other agencies.

The SANDF relief teams have been deployed to those acutely inaccessible areas of Malawi such as Chapinga, Chinkwangwa, Zomba District in Makina, and Phalombwe in Phaloni.

Today (28 March), the South African government is set to hand over donations to assist victims in Mozambique and Zimbabwe. The donations were made by South African citizens, companies and members of the Diplomatic Corps. The donations include financial aid, clothes, water purifiers, non-perishable food items and blankets, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation said on Wednesday.

Minister Lindiwe Sisulu will facilitate the hand over where she will start at Beira in Mozambique and the Chimanimani District in eastern Zimbabwe.

Sisulu will be accompanied by members of the business community led by Patrice Motsepe, the founder and executive chairman of African Rainbow Minerals.

She will also meet rescue teams, including the South African National Defence Force, South African NGOs, United Nations Agencies and volunteers.

The first of three aircraft carrying relief items from the UN Refugee Agency landed early on Wednesday morning in the Mozambican capital, Maputo. The supplies – including tents, sleeping mats, mosquito nets, and solar lanterns – will be distributed to 30 000 people in Mozambique, as well as Malawi and Zimbabwe.

The World Health Organisation is providing supplies to treat diarrhoeal diseases and cholera, and helping to set up three cholera treatment centres.