Cyclone Kenneth: Thousands suffer as torrential rains bring down homes

Afia Raphael, from the coastal township of Chibuabuar, with her daughter in a temporary accommodation centre in Pemba town

Afia Raphael had just moved into her new house when Cyclone Kenneth hit northern Mozambique.

Afia, who owned a small confectionery shop in the coastal township of Chibuabuar, had recently used profits from her business to build a new home. She says:

It was such an exciting feeling to finally have my own house. It wasn’t that big, but it was just what I wanted. My own bedroom and that of my daughter.

Rental fees in Chibuabuar are high, which motivated Afia to buy a piece of land to build a house. She erected a temporary structure on the plot while she saved money for a more permanent building. For seven months, she toiled day and night baking scones and doughnuts, which she sold to fishermen and at the local market. And then Cyclone Kenneth struck:

The storm was so powerful, it literally tore my new house apart. I feel drained. Two weeks ago I was a proud owner of a new house and today, I am a homeless person.

Luckily, before the storm hit, Afia had heard warnings on the radio of the impending cyclone and rushed to safety at a nearby school. From the school, Afia says she could see her house being dismantled by the heavy winds:

It was a painful sight to see what I had worked hard for being destroyed in a matter of minutes.  All my belongings were in the house including my baking equipment. Now, I only have the clothes on me and a few pots. Everything else is gone.

A day after Afia lost her house, local authorities sent a bus to move all those affected by the cyclone in her community to an accommodation centre in the town of Pemba. About 60 people got on the bus, says Afia, but many were left behind as there were not enough seats. She says:

I didn’t know where this accommodation centre was, but I felt it was better to go rather than stay in a classroom.

The first day she arrived at the centre, there weren’t so many people. But as the days progressed, more and more people arriving. Afia says:

The place is now cramped. More families are arriving every day. Now I am left with only a small space where I sleep with my daughter. I no longer feel secure as women and men sleep in the same hall. I wish we had separate quarters for males and females.

According to officials in Mozambique, 23,760 people are currently staying in accommodation centres set up by the government in Cabo Delgado province. In Pemba, 11 accommodation centres have been established in schools, churches and sports facilities to host 4,507 people displaced from surrounding locations.

Afia is hoping that the torrential rains induced by Cyclone Kenneth end soon so that she can go home and rebuild her house. However, her major concern is lack of money – and the ability to earn an income – as all her equipment was washed away by the storm and floods. She says:

I am ready to go back home and start afresh but the problem is that the disaster left me with nothing. However, I if I can get some help with baking equipment or a loan, I can re-establish my business. This is the only way I can buy building materials and feed my child.

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