Written by Tearfund's David Mutua following a recent visit to see our response to Cyclone Idai in Mozambique.
Soon after Cyclone Idai made landfall in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi, the news was full of stories and images of the devastation. Roofs had been ripped off houses, people were marooned on small islands surrounded by rushing waters, and landslides had cut off some communities from much-needed aid.
As I watched, my heart broke at the extent of the destruction, and most tragically the loss of human life. Mozambique holds a special place in my heart. It was the first international assignment I got when I started out as a communications professional years ago. I have never forgotten the feeling I had when I was there.
A few weeks ago, as Tearfund’s Cluster Communications Officer, I visited Mozambique to document the response being undertaken by Tearfund alongside local partner Comité Ecuménico para o Desenvolvimento Social (CEDES).
Flying into Beira late on a Saturday night, you could still see some of the effects of the cyclone. But in the morning it was evident that people were starting to re-establish their lives. Many houses have large tarpaulin covering holes in their roofs, and despite it being a Sunday, construction of some homes was still ongoing.
Flying into Beira late on a Saturday night, you could still see some of the effects of the cyclone.
We drove from Beira to Chibabava district in Sofala Province, passing washed-up roads and bridges on the way. In Chibabava people were living in dire conditions. Since the cyclone hit, this was the first time they were receiving aid.
I met a mother called Maria, whose laugh and booming voice made her stand out from the crowd. She told me how on the day of the cyclone she was huddled in her mud hut home with her six children. The wind was so strong that a wall collapsed.
For most of this community it was a similar story – homes destroyed, and also food supplies. As a result, they were forced to eat seeds from maize that had not yet fully matured. They ground the seeds into flour and made posho, cornmeal mash, but since the seeds were not mature, they were getting bad stomachs. And yet they were resolute and trying to do whatever they could to make ends meet.
Not a dream
The distribution was to help meet the urgent needs of 6,000 people here in Chibabava. Each home received maize, beans, rice, cooking oil, soap, and other essential items.
I could sense the gratitude and relief from the community. The next day 83-year-old Chinguema Sedanhe Sitole, with a glint in his eye, told me how he kept waking up in the middle of the night to see if the supplies he had received were real or if he had been dreaming.
Despite the difference the distribution had made, it was sad to see that the need is still great. There are fears that if communities don’t get proper support, they may soon slip back into a crisis.
Damage of crops and livestock, schools, health facilities, houses and other key infrastructure was particularly distressing. This will have consequences not just for the emergency response phase but for long-term efforts of the country to eradicate poverty and hunger.
Working with our local partners, Tearfund seeks to support the communities where we work so they can get back on their feet. This means helping them with farming tools and seeds, so that they can make the most of the next planting season.
I look forward to going back to Chibabava and witnessing the community reaping a bumper harvest.
Thank you for your goodness. In times of turmoil and tragedy you remain the rock on which we stand. Lord, please be close to all the people affected by Cyclone Idai, and help Tearfund, our partners and other humanitarian agencies to get much-needed relief to the most vulnerable. And help the nations of Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Malawi to recover and rebuild what has been lost.
In Jesus’ name, amen.