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Our Correspondent

MAPUTO – The first of the three planes carrying relief items from the UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, landed in Maputo, Mozambique, Wednesday morning to support people affected by Cyclone Idai.

The aircraft is one of the three flights meant to bring relief to some 30,000 people in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi.

UNHCR aid is being moved from its global stockpiles in Dubai, including family tents, plastic tarpaulins, sleeping mats, blankets, mosquito nets, solar lanterns, cooking sets, jerry cans and other relief items.

“Survivors of this devastating natural disaster are in dire need of global support,” said Valentin Tapsoba, UNHCR Director for Southern Africa, who had personally flown in from Pretoria to oversee relief operations.

“Our contribution is a gesture of solidarity and a note of thanks to those who have generously hosted refugees and shared whatever little they had. We are here to remind them that they are not alone in this hour of need.”

The UNHCR said supplies in Mozambique would be immediately transported onwards to Beira, one of the locations hardest hit by the devastating cyclone, where thousands of people have lost their homes and livelihoods. Two other flights were scheduled to arrive in Zimbabwe and Malawi this week.

In addition, UNHCR emergency teams had started arriving and were being deployed in all three affected countries to support the response, as well as to assume inter-agency coordination functions to protect vulnerable persons coping with the aftermath of the disaster, including refugees.

Tropical Cyclone Idai made landfall during the night of 14 to 15 March near Beira City, in central Mozambique. Initial reports indicate 447 deaths, 1,500 injured and significant damage to infrastructure in Beira and surrounding areas.

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