Our Humane Society International responders are on the ground in Malawi and Mozambique, providing emergency aid to animals affected by Cyclone Idai, a monster storm that has wreaked destruction across multiple African countries with a death toll numbering in the hundreds.

Dispatches from our team in Beira and Bandua village, both in Mozambique, are heartrending. In one community in Bandua, only 16 of 108 cows survived. When our team arrived there after a helicopter flight and five-mile walk (the roads are still impassable to vehicles), a farmer told us that two of his sons and a daughter-in-law were swept away by the floods. Many people had clung to trees to survive the storm, with children tied to the trees to anchor them in place.

Having endured the worst possible ordeal, the people of Bandua village were immensely grateful when our team helped them to round up their remaining cows and treat them. Responders also dewormed nearly 60 goats on farms in the village, and vaccinated and dewormed three very skinny and motherless puppies.

So far, the team has treated more than 200 animals in the cyclone-hit areas, including dogs, cats, cows, pigs and goats. Many areas in need of support are still hard to reach and often, the rescuers have to walk long distances, or fly in on helicopters. Once on site, they administer care to all the animals they can find, from treating vitamin deficiencies to dispensing antibiotics and vaccinations to prevent disease, usually an impending threat after disasters of this scale.

In the district of Nhamatanda outside Beira, our team came across three calves in urgent need of care and rehydration. One calf was laying flat, nearly dead. She had been lying that way for four days, our team was told, and they could see she was severely dehydrated and desperately clinging to life. HSI rescuers were able to rehydrate her orally with a syringe until she was well enough to drink by herself out of a bucket, and they also gave her antibiotics, anti-inflammatories and dewormer. Once she was able to stand up, she stumbled toward her mom, who had been hectoring team members with angry moos, and began nursing. It was an amazing recovery, and a reminder of why we do what we do.

In the past year, our HSI Animal Rescue Team has responded to many disasters globally, including floods in India and volcanic eruptions in Guatemala. As soon as we become aware of a disaster bearing down upon a country, as we did in this case, we begin working with authorities and local animal welfare groups to pool resources, assess needs for animal populations in the affected areas, and map out the best strategies to help them. We are usually among the first responders to arrive and to begin helping and rescuing animals. And importantly, our work, more often than not, touches the lives of the humans who love these animals or depend on them for their living.

We are grateful to our partners on the ground, including the Malawi Vet Association, All Creatures and the Department of Animal Health and Livestock Development in Malawi, African Parks for the helicopter rides, and the Ministry of Agriculture and the veterinary services department in Mozambique.

Cyclone Idai has passed by and much of the flood waters have receded, but the long road to recovery is just beginning for the people and the animals it affected. Our team continues to trek to remote areas to help and our work there will continue as long as we’re needed. We know by now that there are no certainties when we deal with disasters, but we will leave no stone unturned in our efforts to help the most animals we can, as quickly as possible.

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