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Five years after Cyclone Idai, lessons learnt from the disaster

Emergency Health Inclusion
Mozambique

In March 2019, Cyclone Idai struck Mozambique, leaving a trail of desolation in its wake. Five years on, lessons have been learnt about the inclusiveness of aid and disaster prevention.

A woman sits amid rubble, gravel, bricks and plastic, staring into the camera with a closed face. Behind her, three small children huddle together.

Lucia amidst the rubble of her home in Beira, after Cyclone Idai hit in 2019. | © C. Briade / HI

Nothing but destruction

On 14 and 15 March 2019, Idai swept across Mozambique. The consequences of this disaster were staggering: some 500 victims, 120,000 people displaced, around 36,000 houses completely destroyed, hundreds of thousands of hectares of fields flooded and almost 1.85 million people in need of humanitarian aid. The city of Beira, where Ida made landfall, was devastated.

"I remember it well. My daughter was studying in Beira at the time. It was really hard: we had no news from her for more than two weeks. After the cyclone hit, all the communications were down," recalls Eduardo Machava, head of the emergency project deployed by Humanity & Inclusion (HI) in 2019.

The situation in Beira was cataclysmic. Most of the houses and infrastructure had been destroyed by the cyclone and the torrential rains that followed. The roads were impassable, strewn with debris, and the only way to reach the city was by plane.

"The first time I went into Beira, there was nothing but destruction. The houses had no roofs, there were no schools, nothing. The town was without electricity for two months. Because of the state of the roads, the population suffered food shortages because there were no lorries bringing supplies into the city.”

Inclusive emergency assistance

In the days that followed, HI deployed a large-scale response to assist cyclone survivors in five districts. Its teams worked with other humanitarian actors to promote an inclusive approach, ensuring that the needs of more vulnerable groups, such as older people and people with disabilities, were taken into account.

"The aftermath of the cyclone... Ah! it was like the end of the world. Many people had lost their livelihoods, but it was particularly hard for people with disabilities. Fortunately, the assessments enabled us to identify their needs, so that we could provide them with the appropriate assistance. HI's presence in Beira was very important and the inclusive approach helped other organisations to take the needs of vulnerable people into account.”                                         

In the aftermath of the cyclone, HI coordinated clean-up activities to clear more than 7,000 m³ of debris and distributed kits to more than 3,300 families containing basic necessities, tools for rebuilding shelters or developing an economic activity and agricultural raw materials. Teams also provided psychosocial support to 200 people and organised training sessions in partnership with training institutes.

"I went back to Beira a couple of weeks ago. Today, there's not a trace of the damage done by the cyclone. The city and its people have been incredibly resilient.”

Promoting lasting change

Although emergency aid has been gradually phased out, HI has maintained its support for the survivors of Cyclone Idai. Teams are still working in Dondo, a town close to Beira, to support the authorities with the rehabilitation of public infrastructure and the construction of 1,093 new buildings.

"Idai showed us that our infrastructure was not designed to resist this type of disaster. Since then, the government has been promoting the construction of more resistant buildings, particularly for public infrastructure," explains Eduardo.

Drawing on its experience, HI's role is to ensure that these projects are inclusive. Teams assess the accessibility of infrastructures and ensure that new buildings are adapted for people with disabilities. Training has been provided for 222 people as part of the project.

Valuable experience for future crises

Since 2017, the situation has deteriorated considerably in the province of Cabo Delgado, in the north of Mozambique, where thousands of people are fleeing the violence of armed groups. The inclusive approach, promoted by HI after Idai, is being used again to make humanitarian actors aware of the needs of people who are often overlooked in aid measures.

"This experience and knowledge has also helped us with the emergency response in Cabo Delgado. We organise training for other organisations there and are delighted to see them include people with disabilities in their operations, as well as other population groups that are often overlooked," concludes Eduardo.

The construction project in Dondo is being carried out by the Mozambican government, in consortium with HI and the NGO AVSI. It is financed by WB via GREPOC and aims to build 1,903 houses. HI is carrying out accessibility studies, deploying awareness-raising measures and ensuring the buildings are inclusive.

Date published: 11/03/24

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