One month on: Mozambique “like a war zone”
One month on from devastating Cyclone Idai, Oxfam and its local partner organisations in Mozambique are still finding thousands of isolated people cut off from any aid or rescue.
Only a few days ago, Oxfam embarked on a 24-hour journey via car, motorbike and canoe into isolated communities in Zambézia, the province North of Beira, as part of the COSACA consortium and in partnership with local organisation CECOHAS. The team found some 2,000 people in Gentivo in desperate need, with an estimated 4,000 more remaining without access.
Up to that point, the community had had no contact with outside help and were surviving off dates, coconuts and a few small fish they could catch.
Dorothy Sang, Oxfam’s Humanitarian Advocacy Manager based in Mozambique, said that Oxfam and other international agencies are now planning an air drop of life-saving supplies into Gentivo.
“The tragedy is that Gentivo is not an anomaly,” said Sang. “We know there are many more people still out there cut off from help. The further we spread into hard-to-reach areas, the more people in need we are going to find. These are areas that have not necessarily been hit hardest by the disaster, but the people are already living in chronic poverty and now face huge challenges to survive. They risk becoming utterly forgotten.”
Oxfam and its local partners in Mozambique have so far reached over 50,000 people with clean water, emergency supplies and public health activities to help stop the spread of cholera. There have been more than 4000 recorded cases of cholera to date. But with an estimated 1.85m people affected, many of whom are still stranded and isolated, and a lack of international funding, Oxfam is concerned that thousands may not receive the emergency help they need.
“People have given money so generously in many countries to enable Oxfam and other agencies to act quickly to help”, said Sang. “However, a month in, we are still realising the full shocking extent of this disaster. Some places look like a war zone. We are still finding survivors in desperate need. Humanitarian resources are already running out. Aid agencies need to be adequately resourced to respond to what is becoming an overwhelming crisis. The international funding appeal is [USD] $282m, but governments have only pledged $60m so far. If more is not made available soon, thousands of people may be forgotten.”
Oxfam New Zealand’s executive director Rachael Le Mesurier said Oxfam New Zealand is asking for donations from the public to meet the most urgent needs of people affected by the devastating cyclone. “Given the scale of this disaster, there is a serious lack of funding for the thousands of people who have lost everything and are still at immediate risk,” she said.
“We are getting aid to communities however we can – by plane, truck, boat or canoe – but the damage is so extensive that in some cases aid workers are arriving to the correct map coordinates and finding nothing. The village no longer exists.
“Many survivors are still in dire need of short-term urgent support and resources like clean water, disease prevention, food and shelter. Knowing that many of the people affected were already living precariously, Oxfam is concerned about the long-term tragedy that could unfold if we don’t act quickly. Significant funding is needed to ensure those affected can get back on their feet as quickly as possible.”
Sang said: “The scandal and the tragedy – as ever – is that poor communities are suffering most. The international community needs to stand in solidarity with those affected and get funding to organisations on the ground right now, including local organisations who are well positioned to reach people we know are feeling utterly abandoned. This humanitarian response must not be allowed to unravel for lack of support.”