In March of 2019, the tropical cyclone destroyed 90% of Beira, the second most important city in the country.
Tropical Cyclone Idai made landfall on March 14, 2019, off the central coast of Mozambique, also affecting the island of Madagascar, and then Malawi and Zimbabwe.
More than a thousand people lost their lives, hundreds more disappeared, and it is estimated that more than three million suffered losses or were displaced. Beira, the second most populated city in Mozambican territory, was one of the most affected places, being 90% destroyed.
A year later, according to the country's former first lady, Graça Machel, “the first city completely devastated by climate change”, continues to recover from the consequences of the storm.
As the national newspaper Jornal Notícias reported this March, the government has already given $706 million to rebuild the social and economic infrastructure of the affected areas in the center and north of the country, which are part of the $1.4 billion that Mozambique received in May 2019 from international donations.
“Since the beginning of the process, 450 classrooms have been rebuilt, emergency kits and agricultural supplies have been distributed to more than 120,000 families and more than four thousand kilometers of highway have been repaired”, said the Minister of Public Works, Housing and Water Resources, João Osvaldo Machatine.
A SLOW RECOVERY
Evangelical churches, just like the rest of the population, also experienced the devastating effects of Idai on their buildings and communities.
That’s why the Baptist Convention of Mozambique (CBM in Portuguese) created an emergency commission to manage the receipt of aid and direct support to victims. “Life has returned to normal”, the organization's president, Pastor Lourenço Anteiro, explained Protestante Digital a year later.
However, “some residents in high risk areas have ended up returning to the same places they were transferred from” when the catastrophe occurred, Anteiro explains, which now are “safe places, not prone to flooding”.
Signs of recovery in Beira are still weak and slow. “Although much infrastructure, primarily those of a private nature, have already been rebuilt, there is a lack of classrooms, temples and churches, and more”, Anteiro pointed out, .
According to the organization Plan International, “100,000 people still live in temporary settlements”. In addition, the organization’s director in the southern region of Africa, Charles Businge, warns that “while the initial efforts focused on the establishment of temporary homes, there is now an urgent need to provide these communities with food”.
According to the non-governmental organization Care International, more than 16 million people in the southern part of Africa face severe food insecurity due to cyclones, floods, and droughts. Idai had an impact of $14 million in agricultural losses in Mozambique.
Currently, according to Anteiro, “the churches continue to collaborate with organizations for the recovery and resettlement of populations in safe places”.
The national Baptist leader assures that the action focuses on “the distribution of seeds and household utensils”, but on a spiritual level, “new fields are opening for church planting”.
“We Christians feel welcomed by all who stepped in to provide support and help in the recovery of those affected. For this reason, it has been decided to build better infrastructures with greater resistance”, adds Anteiro.
A MESSAGE OF “COMFORT” DESPITE THE SITUATION
The catastrophe caused by Tropical Cyclone Idaí gave way to the increase of some diseases related to the lack of drinking water and the limitation of access to safe hygiene measures.
This was the case with cholera. Within one month after the storm hit the north and central areas of the country, it had already left more than 3,500 dead.
Mozambique has already registered its first cases of Covid-19, and the health infrastructure remains particularly fragile in cyclone-affected areas to now provide a safe response to the epidemic.
The government has already met with the leaders of the different religious denominations in Beira to share the need to start taking preventive measures.
Some of the recommendations are based on avoiding meetings of more than 50 people, including worship and funerals. Some congregations have discussed the possibility of suspending activities for 30 days and using other platforms, such as radio.
“It is a difficult situation, but we must comply with pandemic prevention measures for the common good”, said the director of Justice and Constitutional and Religious Affairs of the Sofala province, Yazalde de Sousa. In the municipality of Beira alone, there are 82 worship centers.
“Just like when the Idai catastrophe happened, as is happening now with the Covid-19, the focus of the people of God is encouragement around the message of consolation in 2 Corinthians”, Anteiro concluded.