Cyclone Kenneth: Women and children bear the brunt

Nhamu outside her home which was torn to shreds by Cyclone Kenneth

“This is all that is left. We have been sleeping in the open for the past week.”

Nhamu Sufu chokes back tears as she describes how she lost her house and belongings after Cyclone Kenneth hit her village, in Macomia district, Mozambique, last week. Now, all that’s left of her home is a damaged shell and a pile of rubble and sticks.

For mother-of-five Nhamu – who is also seven months pregnant – the health of her children is her biggest worry. Her three-year-old daughter has already begun to suffer from diarrhoea. Nhamu says: “I am now boiling all our drinking water to decontaminate it.”

There are also too many mosquitoes in this area. I fear that sleeping in the open will expose me and my family to diseases such as malaria, which may bring complications later in my health as I am about to give birth.

Apart from malaria, Mozambique also has high prevalence of dengue, chikungunya and other infections which are transmitted by mosquitos. As flash floods continue to inundate her village due to torrential rains, most shallow wells used by the community have been also submerged, raising the risk of waterborne diseases like cholera.

Nhamu inside her home after Cyclone Kenneth
Nhamu sits inside her storm-damaged home with the few belongings the family managed to salvage

She is also running out of food. Like many in her community, Nhamu had a good harvest this year. However, the cyclone hit them before they could transfer their produce for storage in the granaries. The little they managed to salvage is now at risk of rotting. Nhamu says:

I can’t take the maize for milling as it is wet. The sun is coming out for only a few minutes before disappearing again. And then heavy rains follow.

We are hungry and running out of options for food fast. We are surviving on pumpkins and yams, but they are running out.

I don’t think we can survive like this for another week. We need proper shelter and food. My only prayer is that well-wishers come and help me as my children haven’t eaten a proper meal for days.

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CARE’s response

During the past week, CARE and our partners have distributed a stock of 1,300 tarpaulins to families in need. We are currently bringing in more supplies including family kits, tents, and hygiene and safe water supplies to ensure that that affected people have the basics to survive.

The UN and local officials estimate that more than 700,000 people were affected by Cyclone Kenneth and 363,000 are children who need urgent assistance. Daw Mohamed, CARE Humanitarian Director who is coordinating the response in Cabo Delgado, said:

The situation is quite desperate. During our initial assessment early this week, we saw very hungry children; some are crying for food as many of them didn’t eat a proper meal for two days. We urgently need more support to reach out to the affected people with life-saving assistance.

The global injustice of climate change

CARE is warning that the increasing frequency and severity of natural disasters is saddling people from the world’s poorest communities with the “debt of climate change”. Because of the shortfall in funding for the necessary emergency response in Mozambique, the country was last week granted a $118 million loan by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) – a loan which the country will have to repay. Marc Nosbach, Country Director for CARE in Mozambique, said:

The injustice around this scenario is that: Mozambique is the sixth-poorest country in the world, by the IMF’s reckoning. Most people here earn about $1,30 a day; and less than 30 percent of the population has access to electricity. It is therefore unfair to saddle this poor country with the costs of a problem they did little to cause. After enduring extreme weather events – like Idai and Kenneth – the people of Mozambique are now faced with crippling debts. This must be a big wake-up call as what’s happening to Mozambique is going to continue to happen.

Sven Harmeling, CARE’s Global Policy Lead on Climate Change, said:

Developed countries must immediately ramp up financial support to those suffering from these disasters and commit to fund disaster preparedness and response. It is unacceptable to continue offering loans that result in insurmountable debt for disaster-stricken countries. The only way for the main contributors of climate change to take responsibility is to provide full support for the consequences of their actions.

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News and stories are provided by CARE staff working to support our emergency responses and long-term development programmes.