Building back better: One month after Cyclone Idai made landfall

by Step Haiselden | CARE International - UK
Saturday, 13 April 2019 12:00 GMT

A woman stands at a camp for the people displaced in the aftermath of Cyclone Idai in John Segredo near Beira, Mozambique March 31, 2019. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra?

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* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Many of those who lost their homes in the cyclone or flooding are sheltering in schools. Conditions are grim

Arriving at Beira International Airport after dark within a week of cyclone Idai making landfall there were very few lights other than those marking the runway and on the plane itself. The terminal building was in almost complete darkness, but somewhere a generator was running as there was enough power for the luggage conveyor to squeak into action.

The devastation caused by cyclone Idai is hard to comprehend.

Many of those who lost their homes in the cyclone or flooding are sheltering in schools. Conditions are grim. This week, I visited Munhonha School in Mafambisse, about an hour drive from the capital Beira, where 20 families were accommodated in just one classroom, with more than 80 people sleeping on the concrete floor. This kind of situation is widespread in the region.

Clean water and functioning latrines are unlikely to be available so open defecation, poor sanitation and a concentration of people increase the likelihood of a disease outbreak. More than 4,000 cases of cholera have already been reported in Mozambique, including six deaths.  

Some schools in Mozambique are uninhabitable because they lost their roofs in the cyclone and heavy rains. But now that the weather has calmed, new problems emerge. The government is keen to reopen schools and repair the roofs of damaged classrooms, and is moving people into makeshift tented camps, often far from their communities. This leaves people without the support of their neighbours or friends at a time when they have lost everything, compounding the trauma and suffering.  

One family I met during an assessment visit was sheltering in someone else’s unfinished house owner. The children’s school books were drying in the sun, and the steps to the entrance of the bare, concrete frame of the house were strewn with cooking pots. But the owner of the house was keen to resume construction so, by the time you read this, the family are likely to have been evicted. With nowhere to go, like so many other families, they will probably have to rely on the generosity of others.

CARE Mozambique has responded to floods and cyclones before, but no one had anticipated the extent of the devastation wreaked by cyclone Idai. Our emergency team is working around the clock to provide clean water, food, as well as hygiene items like soap and sanitary pads. One major part of our response is also installing temporary classrooms, repairing roofs, and rebuilding in ways to make the buildings more resilient in preparation for the next cyclone.