RAYMOND, Maine — KwaZulu-Natal is a region of South Africa with the nation’s second-largest economy. However, during the week of April 11, the region experienced torrential flooding. KwaZulu-Natal’s floods have left no area or person unaffected and the region’s future appears bleak. With the help of the volunteers, military personnel and celebrities organizing relief efforts, the KwaZulu-Natal region will be able to get back up and running as effectively as possible.
KwaZulu-Natal’s Flooding Damages
KwaZulu-Natal’s floods have caused the deaths of many individuals. According to the updated numbers from April 20, the official count was 443 deaths, with 63 individuals still unaccounted for. Torrential rainstorms in the previous week triggered the devastating flooding, which has destroyed homes, at least 4,000 destroyed homes and 8,000 registered as “damaged,” and taken away many livelihood sources. The floods had their most significant impact on the port city of Durban. The flooding left much of the KwaZulu-Natal region without water for several days.
More than 600 registered schools in the KwaZulu-Natal region experienced destruction and need rebuilding after the flooding. After KwaZulu-Natal’s floods, the government and electricity companies shut off power as a preventative measure to save people from coming into contact with the broken and exposed wires or electricity-infused wet grounds. Lacking electricity has made it hard to communicate the location of survivors or the deceased. Volunteers have worked day and night to ensure the safety of those accounted for and find space for those found and brought to shelter. It will likely take months to rebuild KwaZulu-Natal’s status pre-floods, primarily to address the economic impacts of the disaster.
KwaZulu’s Economic Footing and Economic Damages
KwaZulu-Natal’s economy contributes more than 16% of South Africa’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Unfortunately, 5.7 million individuals in the country live below the poverty line. The last-reported poverty rate for KwaZulu-Natal was 52%, while 21 years ago, it was nine percentage points higher at 61%, showing the economic improvement over a decade. The official figure is that 52% of the country is living in poverty. The economy has diversified from total reliance on agriculture to strengthen the economy and bring the poverty rate down. As of 2022, KwaZulu-Natal is most notable for its impressive manufacturing capabilities and export businesses.
The agriculture sector now only contributes about 4% to the South African GDP, contributing to at least 25% of the South African agricultural output. The most significant economic industries in KwaZulu-Natal are manufacturing and exporting natural resources. However, KwaZulu-Natal’s floods destroyed the port city of Durban and almost all daily income has halted.
When the worldwide recession hit KwaZulu-Natal in 2008, the poverty rates rose. The region’s contributions to the South African GDP dropped dramatically. The same effects will probably be seen as a result of KwaZulu-Natal’s floods.
Daily income has dropped as nobody is free to work and the floods destroyed most major roadways and businesses. While rescue and repair efforts are underway, the locals have had to maneuver volunteers as new needs for help arise constantly.
Aid to Assist KwaZulu-Natal Move Forward
The immediate aftermath of KwaZulu-Natal’s floods sparked a cry for help that the government responded to as quickly as possible. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa sent 10,000 military troops for rescue efforts and field medical treatments as hospitals sustained significant damage. Ramaphosa also announced that government would spare no expense in the rebuilding process. The South African government has allocated $67 million for flood relief. It will be a phased process to rebuild the region’s infrastructure. The immediate rescue was the priority.
The next steps are the cleanup and the removal of broken electricity wires and other dangerous materials before government and volunteer groups will commence the rebuilding process. The government and construction crews will likely build the new homes further away from the riverbanks to prevent such devastation should severe flooding happen again. Volunteers are placing shelters in the remaining standing buildings throughout KwaZulu-Natal. In the locations, they look for people, and if they find them, they remove them from the list of missing individuals.
The international attention gathered by KwaZulu-Natal’s floods caused South Africa Confederation of African Football president, Patrice Motsepe, to pledge $2 million in relief efforts. There are many expectations for others to follow suit and make economic support pledges as the region will be unable to financially support itself or provide its usual economic boosts to the South African economy for the foreseeable future.
Charlize Theron’s Efforts
Actress Charlize Theron has also joined the relief efforts. Theron has started new funders with The Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project to begin fundraising relief efforts for food and shelter and to provide clean water. Within the first few hours, Theron’s fundraiser earned more than $5,000. The support from celebrities including Motsepe and Theron will provide much-needed relief to the South African government, relying heavily on KwaZulu-Natal. The South African economy will not be responsible for all expenses the economy cannot afford. Despite the damages that KwaZulu-Natal’s floods have done, the government, volunteers and celebrities are pouring in support to ensure that economic damage minimizes to the greatest extent possible.
– Clara Mulvihill