Up The River

Aid is gradually reaching remote communities struck by Cyclone Idai

​​​​​​​“The wind was blowing strong. My husband got on the boat and went after three of our children who were at school. He never came back. Now I am alone with my six remaining children. It feels as if my heart has sunk with him,” said Gina Manuel, one of the residents of Nhagueira, a remote village accessible only by boat or on foot.

Following the landfall of Cyclone Idai in Mozambique, many remote communities were badly affected. Their fragile houses made of  "pau a pique” (mud on top of interwoven sticks) were washed away by Idai. Rain and flooding continued in many areas for weeks after the cyclone passed through the area, compounding the extensive damage to homes and destroying farmers crops - in many instances their sole source of income and nutrition.

Similar scenes of damaged houses in remote communities are commonplace across the region. Photo: IOM 2019/Amanda Nero

April 16th was a hot and humid day. Two boats were loaded by Samaritan’s Purse (SP) staff with 420 tarps of 4x6 meters each donated by USAID and distributed through IOM’s Common Shelter Pipeline in Beira. An additional 300 tarps were already delivered the day before to affected communities in hard to reach locations.

The tarps travelled over one hour more on the waters of the Pungwe River before reaching the nearest accessible point to the villages. The rest of the journey was on foot.

“I have been working for one week already to build a new house as my old one was taken by the water. The tarps we will receive today will be used to protect my house from the rain. I have learned how to build houses from my Dad. He told me that when he dies, I should be able to build my own house,” said Mesa Jose Chingou who lost his home to Cyclone Idai.

Over 300 community members from three different areas - Boe1, Boe2 and Nhagueira - walked up to 5 kilometers to reach the tarps distribution point at the margins of Pungwe. People gathered under the shadow of an old tree to wait for the distribution to begin. Women wearing their colorful "capulanas" (Mozambican traditional sarongs) sang and danced energetically to celebrate the tarps' distribution.

Women dancing. Photo: IOM 2019 / Amanda Nero

The community leader of each village had a pre-prepared list of houses damaged or completely destroyed by the Cyclone Idai. Once the tarps were unloaded and organised into three different piles, community leaders called out to each head of family on the list to pick up their supplies.

Rafael Domingo is a father of four. His crops of corn, rice, and sweet potato were completely destroyed.

“We did not know about the cyclone. It was night and we were sleeping. At first it was the wind, right after 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," recalls Rafael Domingo

Amina, Rafael’s daughter. Photo: IOM 2019/Amanda Nero

Carlota and her husband Jordao make their living from agriculture. They plant corn and manioc. The cyclone washed away their crops and damaged their house. The tarp they received will be used on their roof to protect the destroyed house from the rain.

Carlota in front of her house, where the tarp will be fixed on the roof. Photo: IOM 2019/Amanda Nero

People who had received their tarps the day before had already started installing them on their homes.

Man in front of his house with the distributed tarps installled. Photo: IOM 2019/Amanda Nero

Food security is now the primary concern for those communities who rely mainly on subsistence agriculture, as their crops were destroyed by the harsh winds and devastating floods.

IOM is relying on information collected through the IOM Displacement Tracking Matrix on primary needs in over 88 locations on more than 70,000 persons to cluster partners and the government to ensure assistance reaches the most in need.

As of late April, through the IOM managed Common Pipeline, Shelter Cluster partners have assisted approximately 30,000 households (more than 150,000 individuals) with various shelter and essential household items, including 35,000 tarpaulins, 13,000 blankets, and 4,000 kitchen sets.