Hitting the Ground in Mozambique

25 March, 2019

Ethan Schwartz

Day 1 update of IsraAID’s Humanitarian Aid efforts after Cyclone Idai ravaged the Southeastern African country Cyclone Idai has displaced more than 100,000 people from their homes. It devastated everything in its path including the port city of Beira, impacting the lives of some 1.7 million people.

Since the IsraAID Emergency Response Team arrived on Sunday, there’s only one thing that’s clear: the needs here are overwhelming.

It’s been nearly a week since the cyclone hit. Thanks to dedicated work by local authorities and humanitarian actors, the city of Beira is just beginning to get back on its feet. The road in and out was reopened yesterday, but power has yet to be restored beyond the hospital and the airport. Volunteers have been clearing the roads of fallen trees and debris.

In nearby Buzi, the district just west of Beira, the picture is bleak and remains unclear. Much of the area is still under water, with people stranded on high land. These areas of higher elevation have effectively created newly formed islands in the middle of the countryside — with scant access to food or safe water. The situation is dire.

Our first stop was the Samora Machel High School. A large, impressive building, normally the biggest school in Beira, has been re-purposed as a makeshift shelter for hundreds of people. Most of the families here are from nearby Buzi, currently inaccessible by road due to intense flooding. In Beira, at least 10,000 people are being sheltered in schools.

The school is run by an implacable woman, who, faced by unprecedented disaster, assumed responsibility for the displaced families, making sure their needs were met. Until families have elsewhere to go, classes won’t be in session. Despite this fact, groups of children show up constantly in their school uniforms hoping to get back to normalcy. As we toured with Fina, the School Director, her students and their parents greeted her, every single one of them calling her “mama.”
Our Mental Health support team is on the way to work with these leaders and their communities, to process this trauma and begin the long journey of recovery.

From there, we went to visit one of the new tent cities being built for evacuees. There we met a group of young women who had lost their homes, their shoes, and most of their clothes. They were on their way to try to find some food and water. Safe water is hard to come by — so our IsraAID Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Coordinator is en route to distribute water filters and train those in need on their usage.

Later, we visited Beira’s hospital — one of two locations with predictable, on-the-grid electricity. All elective surgeries have been postponed and outpatient services were only just resumed. Entire wings of the hospital are currently unusable due to flooding and damage. IsraAID’s medical team arrives tomorrow and will quickly begin to deliver urgently needed services in this hospital, in collaboration with other actors.

With at least two thirds of houses in the city with damaged roofs, and concerns of a secondary crisis due to the spread of Malaria and Cholera, the situation is catastrophic. We and our partners, governmental and international aid organizations, are on the ground working — but more help is urgently needed. This crisis is quickly becoming neglected, with eyes and ears focused elsewhere.
We need your help to bring relief to the people of Mozambique. Please donate to IsraAID’s emergency fund to support our response.

More updates tomorrow from Mozambique. Thank you for your support!

-Ethan Schwartz, IsraAID Mozambique Mission Communications Coordinator

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