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The natural disaster in southern Africa, which struck in mid-March 2019, has left a trail of destruction in its wake and triggered devastating storm surges and flooding. In Mozambique alone, Cyclone Idai killed more than 600 people as it battered the country with wind speeds of up to 200 km/h and destroyed everything: houses, roads, fields.
500,000 people lost their homes. In the Manica region, half a million hectares of agricultural land were destroyed just before the harvest. Now, rivers run through some of the fields and are full of tree trunks, mud and sand. Since most people live from small-scale agriculture, a food crisis looms. A cholera epidemic could be prevented, thanks to immediate medical aid.
Two months after the disaster, many people are still in a state of shock and are barely able to tackle the challenges they face. They had to watch how their husband or wife or family members were engulfed by the floods. ‘But what else can I do except look to the future?’ said José Josefa Mutengo (see below), who lost his wife and three of his children in the floods.
The most immediate need of the women, men and children is for food, drinking water and temporary shelters. In the region of Manica, south of Chimoio, Caritas Switzerland, together with the German Caritas and Caritas Austria, is supporting its local partner organisation in providing this emergency relief for more than 5,000 people. The aid will be needed for several months.
Now that the water has drained away, long-term support and reconstruction begin, so that the people can return to a normal life. With its partner organisation, Caritas Switzerland is distributing tarpaulins and building materials to around 1,500 people affected, which they can use to erect large tents as temporary shelters. Volunteers from Caritas assist them in this. Initially, 300 temporary shelters will be erected – more if needed. In addition to providing food items and kitchen utensils, Caritas is also supporting people with seeds, agricultural implements, clothing and school materials.
Solid huts on secure ground and support with planting new fields
In a second phase, Caritas will help those affected to rebuild their mud huts – on the new land they have been given by the government. It is located slightly higher up and is safer during rainfall. A vast, very fertile lowland area is lost to agriculture for the time being – it is silted up. The local population now plants on smaller areas that lie higher up. Caritas supports them with seeds and advice about sustainable cultivation.
Caritas Switzerland has allocated a total of 2 million Swiss francs for aid to Mozambique.
Cheia Vanilla was born on 15 March 2019 – on the evening when Cyclone Idai swept across her home in Mozambique. Her father Fernando had just cut the umbilical cord with a piece of reed when the water in the hut rose rapidly. Fernando and his wife Gloria immediately had to scramble to safety. In the floods, Gloria lost her footing and just managed to lift the baby up. Fernando – who was already in the branches of a mango tree – succeeded in catching the girl in time and pull Gloria out of the water. Fernando and Gloria called their child ‘Cheia’, because during the birth, everything was ‘cheia de agua’ – ‘full of water’.
José was asleep with his wife and six children in their small hut when suddenly water flooded into the room. José and three of the children climbed into a mango tree in front of the house, his wife and the other three children into another one. The water kept rising. Suddenly, a big tree trunk was washed up and hit the tree on which José’s wife and the three smallest children had sought refuge, with great force. The mango tree bent down further and further due to the force of the impact, right down into the water, taking José’s wife and the three children with it.
José had to watch as his wife and three of his children drowned. He no longer has a house, no clothes and no food to feed himself and his surviving three children. The family now lives in a tent which the local Caritas has put up for him. He will also receive food, clothing, school materials, kitchen utensils and seeds from the local Caritas. In response to the question of how he copes with this difficult situation, he says: ‘what else can I do except look to the future?’