Infrastructural Damage Hampering Relief Support in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa: Caritas

Streets flooded in South Africa's Southeastern Province of KwaZulu-Natal. Credit: Caritas KwaZulu-Natal

A Caritas official in South Africa has said the damage to infrastructure is hindering efforts to reach out to those affected by the floods in the Southeastern Province of KwaZulu-Natal.

In an interview with ACI Africa Wednesday, April 20, Jennifer Boyce, a member of the Working Committee of Caritas KwaZulu-Natal, said the collapse of roads and power cuts is making it difficult to communicate and to distribute relief items to victims of the floods. 

“The key challenge is the damage to infrastructure. Many of the roads have collapsed and access into the communities is quite complex. Many roads remain inaccessible because of the landslide. We must use alternative routes to reach communities”, Ms. Boyce said.

She added, “We have very little communication. People cannot connect due to power cuts, there’s no electricity.”

“The other challenge is the loss of basic services of water and electricity,” Ms. Boyce further said, and added that some people on the banks of the Mariannhill railway station have reported inability to access water and electricity since the floods began.


Severe flooding and landslides caused by heavy rainfall in parts of KwaZulu-Natal resulted in major damage to infrastructure such as roads, bridges, residential homes, businesses, public buildings including schools and places of worship. 

The member of the Working Committee of Caritas KwaZulu-Natal who doubles as the Coordinator of Caritas Mariannhill said she has been visiting communities to assess the situation on the ground.

“We know that there have been several homes affected; close to 70 houses were affected in two of our communities from St. Xavier and at St. Mary Catholic Churches”, Ms. Boyce told ACI Africa April 20.

She added, that the people of KwaZulu-Natal have developed a sense of unity as clean-up operations continue in the South African Province. 

“There's a lot of hopelessness, in terms of what people have experienced, but also a lot of unity as communities work together to mop up and to support each other”, the Caritas official said, and added, “There is a lot of community intervention from both the affected communities and from communities outside of those affected.”

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“In the absence of municipal workers, people are doing a lot of the work on their own. Its community members who are cleaning up the roads”, she further said.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), at least 448 people died in KwaZulu-Natal.

More than 40,000 people have been displaced, while nearly 4,000 houses were destroyed and more than 8,000 others damaged, mostly across Durban City and its surrounding areas, the April 19 OCHA report indicates.

“A National State of Disaster has been declared in response to the floods and landslides, and rescue teams have been deployed to the affected areas to provide humanitarian assistance to those most affected”, OCHA indicates in the report.

In the interview with Ms. Boyce, the Caritas official described the situation on the ground as “very somber”.


“The atmosphere is very somber at the moment; people are in mourning; most people have lost everything, others are still searching for missing family members”, she said, adding that there is need for counselling.

“We also identified today that the issue of trauma is a reality to many families, because many of them watched their homes and loved ones being washed away. Some had to be rescued from their homes. A lot of trauma counseling is expected,” the Coordinator of Caritas Mariannhill told ACI Africa April 20.

Meanwhile, Caritas South Africa has launched a nationwide appeal to help flood victims in KwaZulu-Natal.

In a statement shared with ACI Africa, Caritas South Africa is calling upon people of goodwill to assist the flood victims with non-perishable food items and clothing among other donations.

Ms. Boyce highlighted what is needed in the affected communities during the April 20 interview with ACI Africa. She said, “We need mainly clothing, food, blankets, airtime for community leaders and Caritas personnel who are assisting and dealing with the effects of the disaster.”

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“I think our immediate response, and our needs are around the basic needs for families, which is clothing, food, blankets, toiletries, and school uniform for the children who will be going back to school”, she further said.

Sheila Pires is a veteran radio and television Mozambican journalist based in South Africa. She studied communications at the University of South Africa. She is passionate about writing on the works of the Church through Catholic journalism.