Cyclone Idai Humanitarian Response – a new era of vigilance

More than a year after Cyclone Idai made landfall in Mozambique and became the precursor to a set of unparalleled climate-related disasters, 2.5 million people remain in need of humanitarian assistance. With vital harvests washed away by floods, thousands of children have been diagnosed with severe acute malnutrition (SAM). As one of the poorest countries in the world, extreme poverty has diminished people’s ability to rebuild and recover. And even when they do, new shocks, reminiscent of Cyclone Kenneth which hit the northern province of Cabo Delgado just six weeks later, stop them in their tracks.

“It’s a race against time”, says Florencio Marerua Mozambique Country Director. “These extreme weather events, be they floods in the north of droughts in the south, are going to happen more frequently, and will hit Mozambique with increased intensity.” What can we do? “Our relief work needs to bridge the gap between immediate needs and long-term preparedness – we are working to make sure the affected population are ready for the next disaster.”

From readiness to response

In the immediate aftermath, Dorcas was tasked with responding to the 2019 tragedy both with speed and agility. “We were able to do so successfully thanks to our local presence in the region”, explains Siebrand Wierda, Manager of Community Resources at the Dorcas International Office. “We would have simply been cut off without it.” In the Netherlands, Dorcas also joined forces with EO Metterdaad, Red een Kind, Tear Netherlands, Woord en Daad and ZOA – collectively known as the Christian Emergency Relief Cluster – to implement a coordinated emergency humanitarian response.

We delivered vital food, water and medical supplies and hygiene and water purifying kits directly to the most vulnerable families. We sent food distribution vans to the hardest hit areas where thousands of people, now homeless, could collect bags of emergency supplies and first-aid buckets. Food, soap, cooking utensils and sanitary towels were just some of the provisions.

To ensure our efforts had maximum impact we also quickly mobilised our customers, shop volunteers, churches and working groups in the Netherlands. We were able to generate a significant amount of additional funding thanks to a generous surge in online and private donations. New for us – two of our communications staff from the international office travelled to the region, enabling Dorcas, our partners and several broadcasting stations to share a stream of content from the field. This helped us reach such a wide audience in a short space of time – and ensured our calls for support were met with compassion and urgency.

Making the leap

All in all, we were able to leverage several types of collaboration in order to serve the affected population in Mozambique. But what about the long-term needs that ensued? The parentless children? Destroyed homes? The clean water crisis? The next shock?

To make the leap from immediate relief to long-term recovery we had to ask these questions – and forge better and stronger alliances in order to tackle them. The church denominations that helped raise money at the time delivered additional funds for rehabilitation and recovery later. EO Metterdaad dedicated their 2019/2020 winter campaign to long-term development aid for Mozambique. Now we’ve collected these funds, how are we using them? We cannot fully respond to that question without first looking at the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The number of infections in Mozambique is currently [June 24 2020] totaling 757 cases and there has been 5 deaths”, says Florencio Marerua, Country Director for Mozambique. “But now the virus is reaching Africa, Latin America and Asia – countries already facing the devastating effects of humanitarian crises. In Mozambique, things can quickly escalate, as a large part of the population is unable to isolate itself. Many people have only one option for water – public facilities, shared water pumps. Physical distancing here is simply not an option. Millions of people have to live on the money they earn per day. Stopping work means that they can no longer buy food. What’s more, many people in the areas affected by Hurricane Idai and Kenneth are still recovering. They cannot cope with a new disaster of this magnitude.”

Dorcas will continue to support vulnerable people in Mozambique as the COVID-19 pandemic plays out. We are adapting and revising our programmes where possible. Information dissemination and awareness-raising sessions on personal protection and hygiene protocols – alongside our regular WASH activities – is key to our approach. The provision of critical relief items to displaced populations is ongoing. “It sounds simple, but in a country where many have been uprooted from their homes and are now sleeping rough or in crowded spaces with host families, it is hard for people to access the right information”, adds Marerua. Dorcas is working closely with local health and government authorities to reach the heart of communities and share WHO best practices. We are also equipping families with hygiene kits.

“The next few weeks and months are crucial”, says Marerua. “However hard our operations are right now, my team must focus on protection and preparedness – while ensuring the safety of our staff, volunteers and project participants. This is the only way that we can serve the most vulnerable Mozambicans. We pray for God’s wisdom during this difficult time.”

Want to learn more about our response to COVID-19? Head over to our XXX page.

27 July 2020