“Our homes are shaken” – two weeks on from Cyclone Kenneth
Written and photos by: Matthew Carter
Two weeks after Cyclone Kenneth made landfall over northern Mozambique, you’d be forgiven for believing the crisis is over. There’s very little about it in the media. Donations have fallen. The world has moved on.
Yet it’s only really now that the full scale of the challenge has become clear. A fortnight later there are still communities cut off by floodwaters and by damaged roads and bridges. Villages on nearby islands have been completely levelled by the terrifying force of the storm. Fears of an outbreak of cholera have again been realised.
30,000 people are living in schools, unfinished hotels and other public buildings, their homes lost in the storm and subsequent flooding.
Two of them are good friends John Chalessi [left] and Pedro Jose Maria [right]. The 60-year-olds, who had for a long time lived opposite each other, now find themselves sleeping in a converted sports hall with 600 others.
“Everything happened so fast and the water took everything,” said John, who came to the centre with his family.
“We have nowhere to live right now and that is why we are here,” added Pedro. “Our homes are shaken. We are grateful that we are receiving sufficient [food]. We never slept hungry. Even with difficulty we are living healthily, we have no disease, we are receiving good support.”
Despite their personal circumstances, some people continue to volunteer to help their communities. Theirs is a silent and unheralded job – and one that will continue long after the spotlight moves on.
“There was a strong wind and the houses began to fall,” said Jamil Onmour [foreground], who is volunteering with the Mozambique Red Cross. “I have no house. I am sleeping on the balconies of the people whose houses are less damaged [than mine].”
Jamil has been helping his neighbours search for missing loved ones. He has also been registering families in evacuation centres ready for them to receive support from the Red Cross.
After cyclone Idai hit central Mozambique in March, around 6,500 cases of cholera were diagnosed. The worry is now, with 64 cases already confirmed after Kenneth, that this may be replicated in the north.
There are already four cases of cholera in the village of Ana Jamisse. Two weeks on from the storm, the floor of Ana’s home is still thick with mud – remnants of the flash flooding that came in the wake of the storm.
“This water brings diseases – malaria and diarrhoea. The children have diarrhea and vomit,” said Ana.
“When the rain poured, who had anything to eat? It all went away with the water.”
In a nearby suburb of the city of Pemba, Tima da Conceição Zacarias scrubs the floor of a school that now hosts 150 families. They all lost their homes in the storm.
Tima knows in her work as a Mozambique Red Cross volunteer that it’s often what happens after a disaster that is often more deadly than the disaster itself.
“When the children have stomach ache they can’t walk,” said Tima. “We have to take them to the health unit. I help the community cleaning to raise awareness about the best way of cleaning so that we won’t get other diseases.”
Around three-quarters of Pemba’s population source their water directly from the ground. The fear is that many wells are now contaminated following the flooding.
Cadria Cassamo and her young son are staying in an old colonial fort that has become a temporary shelter for families on Ibo island.
“The winds came and the house fell [down],” she said. “Now we have nothing.”
The island, which is just off the coast of mainland Mozambique, bore the full force of the cyclone. The result has been devastating. The only remaining buildings are colonial structures in the town’s centre. People are sleeping in tents and in what improvised accommodation they can assemble from the remnants of their town.
A woman picks through the remnants of her home on Ibo island.
Two weeks on from Cyclone Kenneth, the floodwaters are beginning to subside. And, as previously cutoff villages become accessible, the scale of the destruction is finally becoming clear.
Over 163,000 people are in need of humanitarian support across Mozambique’s north.