The United Nations estimates that more than 1.8 million people are in need of help due to the damage caused by Cyclone Idai, a Category Three storm packing 200km/h winds and heavy rains that laid waste to large swathes of Southern Africa. In Mozambique, where Idai made landfall on March 14 before barrelling inland to Zimbabwe and Malawi, tens of thousands of people have sought shelter in dozens of locations.
Children playing on an old tree in Beira which was knocked over by in the fury of Cyclone Idai.
The bustling port city of Beira (pop. 530,000) and remote outlying villages were particularly hard hit. Mud brick homes known locally as “pau a pique” (mud and twigs) were no match for the wind, rains and flood waters that rose to as much as 10 meters. Compounding the damage, storms and seasonal flooding that had begun weeks earlier, persisted in the aftermath of the cyclone destroying farmer’s fields the largely agrarian region relies on as the primary employer, and ultimately covering an area the size of Luxembourg. On April 16th, a hot and humid day, two boats were loaded by Samaritan’s Purse staff with 420 4x6 meter tarps donated by USAID and distributed through IOM’s Common Shelter Pipeline in Beira.
A child taking a solitary bath at one of the dozens of temporary accommodation sites in Beira city.
A woman distributes "fruta do embondeiro" (Baobab Fruit) to children at the Samora Machel temporary accommodation site.
Particularly hard hit were Sofala, Tete, Zambezia and Manica provinces, the country’s agricultural heartland that accounts for roughly 13 per cent of Mozambique’s arable land. A drive through Beira city reveals extensive damage to homes and infrastructure: trees lean against buildings, the power lines have toppled over, thousands of properties are missing roofs and sea walls have collapsed. The World Bank-led GRADE rapid remote assessment estimates the cyclone caused as much as USD 773 million to buildings, homes and agricultural infrastructure, a devastating blow to a country where the average annual income is only USD 420.
“The day this tragedy happened I was working. We knew that there would be a cyclone, but we did not imagine that it would be so strong. My wife was at home with our children. When the wind started blowing, I could not stop thinking about them. I could not communicate with them and I could not leave work. My wife and children tried to save our belongings from our home, but the water ruined everything; just look at our Bible. After the storm we had no drinking water and food for days. We have never had such strong winds here before and have only seen this on TV in other countries. We will carry the memory of that day with us forever,” explains Jose who works as a security guard.
“I want my kids to get back to school soon so they don’t miss any more classes, but they have lost all of their school books. My husband is outside doing small jobs to try to make some money. Our house collapsed behind us, right after we left to look for a safer place. We only managed to save some of the kids' cloths," says Luiza, who is cooking beans under a covered kitchen area at Samora Machel temporary accommodation site.
“The wind was blowing so strong. My husband got on the boat and went after three of our children who were at school. He never came back. I am alone now with our six children. It feels as if my heart has sunk with him,” despairs empty-eyed Gina Manuel.
A child suspected of suffering from malnutrition is weighed at a temporary accommodation site in Beira city.
“We did not expect the cyclone. It was night and we were sleeping. At first, we woke up to the sound of the wind and right after that the water came streaming into our house. We only managed to grab our children and run away to an area which lies on higher ground. It’s the planting season now and we don’t have seeds. Soon we will all be hungry," explains Rafael Domingo a father of four, whose daughter Amina is shown above. Rafael's crops of corn, rice and sweet potato were wiped out by the cyclone and subsequent flooding.
Kondo lives in a remote village where most of the houses were either damaged or completely destroyed. The Mozambican National Institute for Disaster Management (INGC) estimates that as many as 240,000 homes were totally or partially destroyed or flooded. With an estimated 715,000 hectares of farmland affected, food security is a growing concern, particularly for subsistence farmers living in rural areas who have limited access to markets or support available in larger urban areas.
Community members from three different villages - Boe1, Boe2 and Nhagueira - walked up to five kilometres to a pick-up point to receive tarps on the banks of the Pungwe River. People gathered under the shadow of an old tree to await the beginning of the distribution.
A mother bathing her baby at the Samora Machel temporary accommodation site in Beira.
“I lived in Praia Nova with my husband and two children. On March 14 the wind started to blow during the day, but at night it intensified and became so strong that it blew off our roof. We tried to cover ourselves with a tarp, but the wind was too forceful. It kept raining for two weeks after the winds. We were soaked day and night. The children’s school materials were destroyed by the water," said Ines.