When Cyclone Idai hit Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe on 14 March, it was one of the worst weather-related catastrophes in Africa in recent times.
The cyclone left 700 dead, with hundreds still missing. Three million people have been affected by the devastation. The cyclone destroyed entire towns and villages, and wiped out hundreds of thousands of hectares of farmland on the eve of the next harvest. Aid agencies are battling the spread of cholera as well as providing food, shelter and medical supplies. So far, the UN has reached 100,000 people with food assistance and is scaling up to reach many more.
We also reached out to our networks to see how we can support the rescue and relief efforts. Virgin Unite pledged funds, which were matched by partners and have been used to provide helicopters, medicines and support other emergency relief efforts.
Many of our Virgin companies are taking action – with Virgin Atlantic redirecting all its on-flight donations to the Save the Children Emergency Fund for the rest of this month; Virgin Mobile South Africa amassing donations for the Gift of Givers emergency response and Virgin Money South Africa designing a donation feature in the Virgin Spot app to make donating easier.
I’ve long believed that businesses have to be a driving force in helping us create a better world. A shining example of a businessman who has seen a problem in his community and has done all he could to try and help is my good friend Strive Masiyiwa.
Strive, who is the Zimbabwean founder of Econet, a telecommunications group, has been mobilising support on the ground across the region. He has been leading the charge to get businesses to join in to try and help. There are nearly 200 people working with him to try and help provide relief to communities who need it. Hotels have opened their doors to the homeless, a white water rafting company has sent their boats and farmers have lent tractors and supplies.
Together they searched for survivors, flew more than 150 tonnes of aid by helicopter in two weeks and bulldozed blocked roads. Strive read a heartwarming story of a grandmother who walked for miles to donate clothes and household items to cyclone survivors. He was so touched by her generosity he has promised to build her a home and give her a pension for the rest of her life.
The work to help the survivors is far from over – but it is when we come together that we can really make an impact.
You can find out more about the situation and donate to the UN’s emergency appeal here.