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Cyclone Idai caused massive destruction in four southern African countries and over 1.5 million people have lost almost everything. Three weeks later some are still living in communities of tents or jammed into school buildings and sleeping on the floor.
Before Cyclone Idai hit, vehicles travelled to different areas announcing on loud megaphones that a huge cyclone was coming. But what could Mozambicans do? Many rural Mozambicans still live in grass huts, surviving mostly by their gardens and an odd job or two. They don’t have bus money to go far. In Beira city they have lived through many cyclones, so they did as they have always done, just closed their doors and waited.
But there has not been a storm like this in southern Africa in living memory. Three weeks later the incredible stories are emerging: During the storm people tied themselves or their children to trees so they wouldn’t fall off in their sleep as flood waters rose and hours turned into days waiting for helicopter or boat rescue. Employees of a large crocodile farm stayed at work during the cyclone to keep shoring up collapsing walls so that 26,000 crocodiles would not escape and harm people, meanwhile at least one employee’s entire family and their home was swept away in the flood waters. In Inhamutunga thirty people came running to a cement church after their homes fell. The roof had blown off, but at least there were brick walls. When the storm was about over, they walked outside and the church collapsed into rubble behind them. All electricity, water and phones were down for days and people were drinking flood water contaminated by rubble and the dead bodies of animals and humans. Fifty-five health centers were destroyed and the hospitals in Beira city are all damaged including operating rooms and medical equipment.
The U.N. says that over 1.5 million people were affected by flooding as rivers overflowed and joined into each other forming a massive body of water. The waters are now receding. Some people have returned home, others are still in communities of tents. The government has promised to offer some of them new land farther from areas prone to flooding. But in the meantime they have lost everything. Even employers in Beira city are rebuilding their offices and stores, leaving some who had jobs without any salary. While there are plenty of relief efforts from governments and organizations, many efforts are centered in Beira and not the rural areas.
One thing I know: Mozambicans are a resourceful and a hopeful people. Mozambicans may make $50-$200 monthly. No one has insurance. Within a few days some rural people in dry areas organized more reeds and salvaged plastic to rebuild. In cities, some took bricks from the rubble and piled them up between wooden posts. They hammered out the warped roofing sheets, salvaged nails among the rubble and at least had some shelter from the ongoing rains of the rainy season.
There are many relief agencies working particularly in the cities. But there is not enough to go around. Mozambican Wesleyans have collected clothing, medicines and donations some of which has been sent already by bus. Pastor Ruth, a doctor in residency, visited a tent camp in Joni Segredo (south of Beira) and found that there were three Wesleyan pastors. there. Nearly 1,000 people have cholera and others have stomach trouble since all the water is now polluted. Wesleyan donations have been used to purchase dozens of medicines which will be distributed by Pastor Ruth.
Swazi Wesleyans are banding together to raise $1000 to rebuild a Bible College student’s houses which fell. A World Hope team is on the ground currently distributing water filters, rice and other items in Beira and Nhamatanda. Twelve thousand dollars is on its way. With that we will buy 3000 bags of rice and cornmeal, beans, salt and bleach for water purification and for cleaning as well as rebuild one of the 8 cement churches that fell. Thankfully the foundation and floor are still intact.
Twenty dollars can buy a dozen bottles of water purification drops. Twenty dollars can buy 50 lbs of rice. One hundred dollars can buy nine roofing sheets or nine bags of cement to repair homes or churches. We still need an additional $50,000.
Tax-deductible donations can be made at www.wesleyan.org or mailed to
The Wesleyan Church, General Treasurer’s Office, Po Box 50434, Indianapolis, IN 46250