When Cyclone Idai hit Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe on 14 March 2019, it left a trail of death and destruction. People’s lives and livelihoods were taken, and hope was hard to find.
Tearfund and our partners, along with other charities, launched an immediate response. But for Edgar Jone, Tearfund’s Country Director in Mozambique, the disaster had personal consequences. His family lived in the capital city Beira, one of the worst hit areas.
Peter Shaw, Editor of Tear Times, spoke with Edgar on the one-year anniversary of the cyclone:
Peter Shaw: Take us back to that moment when you first saw Beira and the destruction there. What did you see and experience?
Edgar Jone: There was no life. Life stopped. All the markets stopped, everything stopped. All the roads were broken so you can't drive, there is no drinking water, no electricity, no roofs on the hospitals and schools – everything was stopped.
PS: One year on from Cyclone Idai, how are people in Mozambique coping today?
EJ: People are still struggling in the places where the cyclone hit. More than 10,000 people are still without shelter. Thankfully, some have already been resettled by the government on higher ground where there is less risk of flooding. But today Mozambique is suffering from drought. It is not raining enough, and we have 2 million people in need of food in the southern region of Mozambique and the provinces where Idai hit. There is still a lot of need.
PS: And what about the psychological trauma for those people affected?
EJ: People lost everything. Some lost parents, family members, some lost children. I heard a story recently of a lady who was pregnant, and was forced to climb a tree during the cyclone. She gave birth in the tree. But her other two children, they were swept away in the flood water. The psychological trauma is a big challenge for people. They still need healing and also prayers.
'People lost everything. Some lost parents, family members, some lost children.'
PS: How is Tearfund supporting people with stories like this?
EJ: At first we had to rescue people who were stranded after the flooding or left without a home.
We then supported them with basics like food and clean water, as well as soap for washing and tents for shelter. Next we gave them seeds so they could plant crops again. Idai hit when all the crops were about to be harvested but were washed away.
Tearfund and our partners are now helping people to be more resilient in the longer term. This includes leading water and sanitation training programmes and providing crops that are tolerant to drought caused by climate change. Tearfund partners are also offering counselling to those who are dealing with the traumatic experiences they went through.
PS: How were you personally affected by the cyclone?
EJ: When Idai hit, I was at our Tearfund office with my wife and children, 200 kilometres from the epicentre in Beira. But my mother-in-law and my brother-in-law were at our family home in Beira. I was not able to communicate with them. So after three days I took a boat and crossed the river because the roads were broken.
When I arrived I tried to look for my family, because our house had been destroyed. I also helped my team assess the immediate needs of people and communicated this back to our headquarters. I found my family and they were safe.
After one year, we managed to put the roof up. It’s still missing the ceiling, but my family are back living there. We are grateful because some people still don't have a roof in Beira.
PS: How important was your faith in God at this time?
EJ: I faced this challenge not by my strength but by God’s strength and provision. I felt God’s presence through all this.
PS: And finally, how can we pray for Mozambique today?
EJ: Firstly, please pray for the peace in the country. We have got some areas where we work where it's not possible for you to drive, because of conflict. Secondly, please pray for those people still facing the consequences of Cyclone Idai and the droughts today. And also pray for our Tearfund team and partner organisations, that they will be strengthened and encouraged.