Claire works with local churches in Chimoio, Mozambique. She shares her experience of Cyclone Idai.
The radio announced, ‘There’s a cyclone coming! Get ready!’ But few people knew what that meant, or how to prepare…
In March 2019, Cyclone Idai made landfall on the coast of Mozambique, wreaking havoc as it moved inland.
Initially, my main concern was to make sure that everyone was accounted for and safe, but with telephone masts destroyed, communication was a huge challenge. My living room quickly became a co-ordination hub for information from and for many different agencies.
A long list of names on the wall enabled each person’s situation and needs to be recorded, and a parallel list of available resources made it possible to send help where it was needed most. Food, blankets, medicines, cooking pots – with the aid of a designated WhatsApp group, lists were kept up-to-date and a map of the area was annotated to indicate which roads and bridges were passable, enabling transport routes to be identified.
Although aid agencies handed out food in the towns and along the main roads, many communities in the remote bush areas were largely forgotten or ignored. It was incredibly frustrating, and a logistical nightmare trying to get help to those in need, without tolerating corruption.
Friends in Lamego badly needed food to feed the three hundred people sheltering in their home. But how to get it to them? They were completely cut off by the floodwaters. Mercy Air provided a helicopter but with the usual landmarks completely submerged, navigation was very difficult. Hours were spent pouring over maps trying to identify the GPS co-ordinates needed to locate them.
A lady in her seventies told how she only survived because her grandson pushed her up a tree and held on to her – for three days. Others told of miraculous escapes, and then another shared his story:
He and his wife had twins aged eight, twins aged four, and triplets aged eight months. Life was difficult and hunger a constant companion.
Then the cyclone struck.
It destroyed their home, all their possessions, and ruined the crops that were to have sustained them through the coming months. The cyclone took everything, including their hope. His wife was trying to breastfeed triplets – while unable to find any food for herself or family. But thanks to the spontaneous, generous donations from my supporting churches, we had been able to buy food and other basics for people in need. As we prayed with this man and handed over a month’s supply of food and baby milk he gazed, incredulous, and declared, “God exists! GOD EXISTS!”
Later his wife shared how she had heard their neighbours saying, “How can she feed three babies? They will die. They cannot survive!” But today, with three strong, healthy toddlers, everyone knows that it was God’s provision that saved these – and many other – precious lives.
As the relief efforts moved from rescue to reconstruction, we began rebuilding homes, beginning with the most vulnerable – widows, orphans and the disabled. God was glorified and many asked questions about God, declaring that he must really care about these widows and orphans, because he provided for them in their need. To him be all the glory!