OUR STORIES: MARCH 2017
“February 15: the day I will never forget”
by Aderito Bie, Communications Officer, CARE Mozambique
Maria Massingue remembers how it all began.
"Everything was fine in the morning, but by 11 o’clock it started raining and the wind was blowing,” said the 47 year old mother of four.
Cyclone Dineo was bearing down on the coast of Mozambique. With winds of over 130 kilometres per hour, Maria’s village in the district of Morrumbene lay directly in the cyclone’s path. “A few hours later the wind was shaking my house so much, I realized that sooner or later it could be destroyed. So I took my children to the safest place I could think of,” said Maria. “I held their hands and we ran outside into the wind and the rain, we ran to the church nearby."
Mozambique is one of the world’s most vulnerable countries to natural disasters and climate change. Tropical storms and cyclones are regular occurrences. After seeking shelter at the local church with others in her community, Maria returned to her home two days later to find much of it destroyed and the family’s belongings swept away.
"It took me a while to believe the losses and damage that people in the community including myself had gone through,” she said. “We lost metal sheeting from the roof, our beds, our clothes, and even our chickens – we lost everything.”
Cyclone Dineo affected more than 550,000 people across the province of Inhambane. More than 33,700 houses were completely destroyed while another 71,200 homes were damaged, including Maria’s. An estimated 1,600 classrooms were damaged or completely destroyed by Dineo, affecting 5,500 teachers and 160,000 students, including Maria’s children who sit their classes under the shade of playground trees while their classrooms await repair. Seventy health centres, including 52 maternal health clinics, were also damaged, as were approximately 389 government offices.
But Dineo’s greatest affect will be on communities’ longer term food security. Southern Africa has been experiencing its worst drought in 35 years. The cyclone destroyed more than 29,000 hectares of crops including maize, ground nut, cassava and beans, the first harvest after a prolonged drought. “My big worry now is my field that was destroyed.
Before the drought, I could grow food and feed my children. We could eat three times a day but now we eat only one time every day,” said Maria. This was Maria’s first harvest for two years. “My crops used to be the main source of food for my family,” she said. “Before I could also sell my produce but now there’s nothing – to sell or to eat.”
CARE is assisting cyclone affected communities in Inhambane. In the immediate aftermath of Dineo, CARE distributed emergency items including tarpaulins, blankets, mosquito nets, and jerry cans, as well as chlorine tablets for clean drinking water. “My children and I have been sleeping under the tree, with these items we can be properly protected from the rain and from mosquitoes,” said Maria. “We normally drink water from the bore hole but after the cyclone, this water was dirty. With the chlorine tablets we received from CARE, we can have clean water to drink.”
Assistance provided with the support from Irish Embassy of Ireland, Embassy of the United States, Office for Foreign Disaster Assistance / United States Agency for International Development, The Canadian Humanitarian Assistance Fund, and UNICEF.
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