'Nothing is the Same' - Benedict's visit to Mozambique Post Idai
It is hard to imagine how scary it must have been for people, when the full force of Cyclone Idai hit Beira during the night of Thursday, March 14th, and plunged everything into darkness as it took out the electricity supply, ripped through the city and villages and left so many literally without a roof over their heads.
It is hard to picture how exposed and powerless people must have felt, especially people with disabilities, who are often already in a more vulnerable and isolated situation than others.
On one hand, things both look and feel remarkably ‘normal’ arriving in Beira exactly one month after Cyclone Idai wreaked its destruction.
Roads are open, traffic is flowing, many houses and parts of town have light and electricity again. people are going about their normal day-to-day business.
On the other hand, nothing is the same. All around, there are houses without roofs, thousands of people no longer have homes and are living in tents in accommodation centers. Many schools, health centers, and other services are not yet back up and running.
After listening to people’s stories about the night the storm hit, and the 10 days of rain, floods and further devastation afterward, what strikes me the most is not just how this disaster has turned people’s lives upside down, but also how people everywhere have pulled together.
There are countless stories of people who lost their homes, being given shelter by neighbors. Other stories talk of how people with disabilities defied the odds and showed incredible courage in somehow getting themselves to safety - sometimes literally crawling through the raging storm, in the middle of the night, to a safer place to shelter. Others talk of neighbors helping out by sharing food and other basic necessities, in the days and weeks after the storm.
What is clear is that Cyclone Idai has touched hundreds of thousands of lives in Beira and throughout Sofala Province. Its effects will be felt long beyond this first month since 14th March. Basic human needs like a safe place and shelter to call home, and simply enough food to survive will be a challenge for many people for months and possibly years to come – long after the big wave of international emergency relief organizations has come and gone.
The cyclone hit before this season’s harvest was brought in, and so crops were wiped out and lost in the storm and floods. There is a high risk of food shortages for the rest of this year, and possibly longer. Amidst those challenges for the whole population, persons with disabilities will be even more vulnerable and at risk of being marginalized than usual. They will need our continued and increased support, to make sure they are not left behind, but given the chance to rebuild their lives and thrive, like anybody else.
- Benedict Hoefnagels