Mozambique – 22 March 2019

‘The situation is awful, it is difficult even to describe’

Following Tropical Cyclone Idai, the coastal city of Beira remains isloated and is struggling to recover

Aílton Muchave is the National Programme Director for SOS Children’s Villages Mozambique. He is part of the team carrying out an assessment of the storm’s impact on Beira, a week after Tropical Cyclone Idai made landfall.

Describe the situation in Beira today.

Many buildings have lost their roof and there are houses that have been completely blown away. As you move into the outskirts of town you see many, many more people affected. Their houses have been destroyed. People have died and the hospitals are really full. The situation is awful, it is difficult even to describe.

Beira is isolated – there is no ground transportation from other parts of the country. The only way to get here is by plane. We really need to get supplies of food – that is a major need now.

Is there enough shelter in the city?

In a city of more than 500,000, there are an estimated 66,000 people who are displaced. There are currently around 100 shelters available. The situation in the shelters is not good. Other organisations are trying to set up tents in these shelters. We still have people experiencing hard times with no shelter at all and there is not enough food. The government has arranged a ship that will bring food parcels for the people who were displaced.

One challenge is that there are people coming from other districts to Beira for shelter. We have had two disasters – the cyclone that affected Beira and the floods that affected the provinces. The army has been using helicopters from areas that were completely flooded and they are bringing these people to Beira. There is still not space to provide shelter to everyone.

How are the children and staff at the SOS Village in Beira?

The children are fine and safe, but they are scared. A majority of our colleagues were also affected by this – some of them lost their houses and their own families are affected. We are providing psychological and peer support to our colleagues.

What is the condition of the SOS Village?

At the SOS Village we were really, really lucky. Our houses are mostly fine but the houses in the surrounding area, many have lost their roofs. We lost 22 trees in the Village. Staff are currently removing the trees and debris. There is no school so we are starting study groups for the children.

We don’t have electricity, we don’t have running water in the houses. We are also concerned about the hospitals and health centres. Some of them were destroyed and a lot of people need assistance in the city. We are working to buy food to ensure the children and families have food for the next 30 to 60 days.

My concern right now is water and sanitation. We don’t have water purification at the moment and water purification supplies are not available. One of our partner organisations is going to try to bring water purification equipment, but it is not yet clear how they will get it here.

Are schools affected?

There is no school and there is no date for the classes to resume. Many of the schools were damaged and those that are still standing are being used for shelter.

What is the situation of the children and parents in family strengthening?

I talked to three mothers and the situation for them is very concerning. These families have moved to the shelters that were created by the government to accommodate the people that were displaced. There are a lot of people without houses at present. I can easily say 80% have lost their homes and 100% were affected by this.

All the neighbourhoods where these families lived were completely affected. But we still need to do a thorough assessment of the needs of these families, which we will be doing in the coming days.

Background on Tropical Cyclone Idai

Tropical Cyclone Idai came ashore near the coastal city of Beira on Thursday 14 March, with wind speeds of up to 190 km per hour. The storm has caused widespread wind damage and flash floods in central and northern Mozambique, killing more than 200 people and injuring 1,400.

The United Nations say more than 1.7 million people in Mozambique, including an estimated 260,000 children, have been affected by Tropical Cyclone Idai. The killer storm also caused damage in neighbouring Zimbabwe and compounded the humanitarian emergency in Malawi, where an estimated 920,000 people were still coping with devastating flooding from an earlier storm.

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Main photo: A child plays in floodwaters on a street while waiting for drinkable water delivered by local authorities in Beira. EPA-EFE/TIAGO PETINGA