By Joyce Ojanji

As tropical cyclone Freddy continues on its path, it is expected to exacerbate challenges in Southern Africa.

According to the World Meteorological Office (WMO), the storm which is threatening communities in Madagascar and Mozambique for a second time in several weeks could become the longest-lasting storm of its kind on record.

The world’s longest-lasting tropical cyclone is Hurricane John which lasted 31 days in Central Pacific.

“Freddy is having a major socio-economic and humanitarian impact on affected communities. The death toll has been limited by accurate forecasts and early warnings, and coordinated disaster risk reduction action on the ground – although even one casualty is one too many,” said Dr. Johan Stander, WMO Services Director.

Cyclone Freddy

The UN’s humanitarian affairs office notes that at least 21 people have been killed in the two countries.

In Madagascar, more than 3100 people have been displaced and over 3,300 houses flooded and destroyed while in Mozambique, 10 people have died and the authorities estimate some 1.75 million people have been affected and over 8000 displaced.

Freddy is now moving away from Madagascar and is expected to intensify as it moves again towards Mozambique, according to WMO’s Regional Specialized Meteorological Centre La Reunion (Meteo-France). It is a warning of heavy rains in the next 36 hours in southern Madagascar.

Also, the cyclone is set to worsen the cholera situation in Malawi, if it triggers further rainfall in the southern part of the country.

Since the outbreak was officially announced a year ago, cholera has spread to 29 districts across Malawi. It has resulted in more than 50,000 people being affected and over 1,500 deaths.

Of these, more than 12,000 children have contracted cholera, and of these, unfortunately about 200 have died.

According to WMO, tropical cyclone Freddy developed off the North Australian coast, then crossed the entire South Indian Ocean before slamming into Madagascar on 21 February, and then Mozambique three days later.

The storm brought heavy rains and flooding over several days before looping back towards the Mozambique Channel, picking up energy from the warm waters along the way, and then moving towards the southwestern coast of Madagascar.