Nearly one month after cyclone: Beira stirs while search for survivors continues in Zimbabwe

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The streets of this busy port city are returning to life as Mozambique approaches the one-month anniversary of Cyclone Idai’s March 14 landfall, while the search for survivors continues in neighbouring Zimbabwe.

Freighters and other heavy sea vessels ply the lanes along Beira’s waterfront and debris from fallen trees and other windblown wreckage can be seen stacked neatly along downtown sidewalks. Beachfront bistros again are attracting enough business to cause traffic jams over the weekend.

The challenge now is shifting to the outlying countryside, especially the Buzi River districts southwest of Beira, which largely were accessible only by helicopter until little over a week ago. It remains unknown how extensive the damage to housing has been in the region—and how many deaths still have gone unreported since March 14.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) will begin sending assessment teams out into Buzi this week. Precise destinations are still being planned, but searchers can expect four-to-five-hour drives on mostly dirt roads, and to be staying several days at a time in rural villages.

IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) teams also have been working through the forested areas of Manica and Macate provinces assessing needs of internally displaced people living in dozens of temporary shelter locations.

The death toll in Mozambique from the natural disaster was set Monday at 602 individuals. Some 2,772 cases of cholera have been reported, with six cholera deaths reported.

In Manicaland, Zimbabwe, IOM’s Director of Operations and Emergencies, Mohammed Abdiker, joined Regional Director for Southern Africa Charles Kwenin and IOM Zimbabwe Chief of Mission Mario Lito Malanca on a visit last week (4 April) to the Chimanimani and Chipinge districts to assess needs and challenges faced by those communities affected by Cyclone Idai.

Flooding affected 270 000 persons with an estimated 21 000 persons displaced in Chipinge and Chimanimani districts.

While visiting Kopa and Ngangu, two communities of Chimanimani where many displacements took place, the IOM team learned more than 77 households were reduced to rubble and that survivors still struggling find at least 305 missing people.

In response to the crisis in Zimbabwe, IOM has launched an appeal to the international community for USD 7.2 million to enable the Organization to provide multi-sectorial humanitarian assistance to 90,000 individuals across the following sectors; Shelter and -food Items (NFI), Camp Coordination and Camp Management (CCCM), Health, Protection, Displacement Tracking, Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) and Early Recovery.

In Beira, as people’s lives start getting back to normal, schools are beginning to relocate the internally displaced families who sought shelter there in the first hours of the cyclone. As classes resume, Beira’s streets are filling again with children in fresh uniforms, carrying books and sports equipment. 

Fifty families—255 individuals, all told—were relocated this past weekend from the Matadouro school to the Sao Pedro emergency camp prepared in recent days by IOM. The camp’s preparation on Beira’s outskirts was assisted by a unit of military firefighters sent to Mozambique by the Brazilian Armed Forces. Land for the settlement was provided by Beira’s Catholic diocese. Tents were donated by Italy.     

Closer to Beira’s center, IOM joined in the rollout of a much larger IDP camp on the grounds of the Samora Machel secondary school. On Monday (8 April), IOM assisted in the installation of a flexible reservoir (known as a “water onion”), holding 30,000 liters of potable water.

Antonio, an installer with the government-owned utility, FIPAG (Portuguese: Fundo de Investimento e Património do Abastecimento de Água), told IOM, “My colleagues and I are working early morning until evening, seven days a week to help bring water to affected communities.”  

Antonio added that he, too, had been forced to flee his home during recent conflict in Mozambique. “I was displaced to Malawi, so I know very well how difficult it is to be displaced,” he explained. “While I was in Malawi I volunteered and worked with the Red Cross. It feels really good to be able to help.” 

Beginning today (9 April) the Samora Machel camp will start receiving families. Ultimately it will house between 1,400 and 1,500 displaced Mozambicans.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of International Organization for Migration (IOM).

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