New Study by Hope and Healing International Finds People with Disabilities Left Behind in Wake of Cyclone Idai

WATERLOO – July 3, 2019 – On March 15, 2019, Cyclone Idai’s torrential rains, winds, and mudslides killed more than 1,000 people and wiped out farmland and hundreds of thousands of homes in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi on its rampage. In the days that followed, the UN estimated 1.85 million people urgently needed emergency humanitarian assistance – but these numbers only indicated those physically able to get to safety.

Hope and Healing InternationalHope and Healing International, a charitable organization that aids children and families affected by disability in the poorest countries around the world, was concerned with the lack of data around those with disabilities. They knew that those who can’t see the way to safety, move their wheelchairs through floodwaters, or those who can’t hear the warning signs around them, are most vulnerable in natural disasters. Many can’t get to food and water distribution points at all, and those who do, are less able to fight for limited essential supplies and services in the crushing, desperate crowds.

White Baisoni, a survivor of Cyclone Idai with a disability, reported: “We have been here [at one of the displaced persons camps] for some days but we are being accommodated in open spaces. Moreover, we are hardly given food. For instance, yesterday, we were given a cup of rice each and some of our colleagues with disabilities went away with nothing and slept on an empty stomach.”

As a result of the lack of support for people with disabilities, Hope and Healing International worked with Jairos Jiri Association in Zimbabwe and MACOHA in Malawi to conduct emergency rapid assessments across four wards in eastern Zimbabwe and 14 districts in southern Malawi, as these areas were severely affected by mudslides and/or floods triggered by Cyclone Idai.

The goal of the mixed method assessment was to identify survivors with disabilities and their families, to determine the scale of the need, and to gather information about how these families were affected by the cyclone. The findings were to cover the gap of information available to the public about people with disabilities in the cyclone aftermath and to allow Hope and Healing and their partners to plan and deliver effective relief and recovery services to children and families too often forgotten by the rest of the world.

The assessment identified 4,831 children and adults with disabilities in the surveyed wards and districts in Zimbabwe and Malawi. Data indicated that many of these people are not able to access relief aid and are not being captured in broader government and non-government surveys:

  • Persons with disabilities reported others left behind during initial rescue and evacuations
  • 66% of families with a member affected by disability in Zimbabwe reported damage to shelter that can be repaired, 18% reported destruction beyond repair
  • 7% reported that their crops were destroyed and arable land destroyed as well
  • 7% of people with disabilities reported losing their livelihoods to the cyclone – with only 21.8% who said they had a consistent source of income
  • Many reported that the cyclone destroyed their assistive devices
  • Persons with albinism bemoaned lack of security in the camps as they are living in fear within the open spaces provided by the government

Hope and Healing International believes that their assessment report provides important and compelling evidence to address the unique needs of impoverished families with disabilities. They see their role as providing specialized services for this marginalized group of survivors, while also collaborating with other agencies delivering humanitarian relief, so no one is forgotten in disasters.

“The rapid assessment will be used by us and our partners to determine what efforts are needed, where we should focus and for whom,” explained Ed Epp, Executive Director of Hope and Healing International. “It will also be shared with other humanitarian relief organizations, so we can ensure all efforts are inclusive.”

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Interviews with Hope and Healing’s Executive Director Ed Epp are available.


About Hope and Healing International

Hope and Healing InternationalCreating healthy hearts, bodies and communities in some of the poorest places on earth… because not one child, not one family, should be forgotten! As of April 2019, Christian Blind Mission (cbm) Canada became Hope and Healing International (formerly cbm, forever Christian).

This new name reflects what the organization does alongside their supporters, providing healing care to forgotten children who can’t walk, who can’t see, who can’t hear – who struggle to survive deep poverty with the added disadvantage of disability. It’s what they’ve done since cbm started over 110 years ago. Why? They are called to transform lives by valuing everyone as Jesus values them. To learn more, visit

About Ed Epp

Ed EppEd has worked in International Development for over 25 years, beginning with community-based development in China, Jordan, and Lebanon; regional based management in the Middle East; global management as Director International Operations, and executive management as Vice President Resource Development and Executive Director. During that time Ed worked in three organizations – Mennonite Central Committee, Mennonite Economic Development Associates and currently for Hope and Healing International (formerly cbm Canada) as Executive Director.

He has been active in partner development, programs with a disability focus, agricultural and economic development including microfinance, and peace and justice. Ed was born and raised in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Media Contact: Mikayla Stroeder; or 519-342-3703 x 105