On the evening of 14 March 2019, Cyclone Idai collided with the city of Beira in central Mozambique. With wind speeds of 185 kilometres per hour, it was the largest cyclone on record to hit the Southern Hemisphere and Africa. The impact was devastating, leading to the loss of life and extensive damage to infrastructure – not only in Mozambique, but in Malawi, Madagascar and Zimbabwe.
In Mozambique alone, more than 130,000 people had to seek shelter in the 136 accommodation centers (emergency tented camps) that were set up across the country. The situation was dire, and the Mozambican government had to call for assistance to rebuild infrastructure like healthcare systems, transport and communication that has been damaged. Continued access to healthcare had to be a top priority due to the challenges displaced people face.
Supporting those in the eye of the storm
The Associação Moçambicana para Desenvolvimento da Família (AMODEFA), our member association in Mozambique, is reigniting a glimmer of hope lives of the people in the most affected areas including Beira, Tete, Chiomoio and Zambezia.
Since that fateful day in March, AMODEFA has touched the lives of people who were literally in the eye of the storm. Zaida Chivange, a nurse with AMODEFA, has been an important part of the efforts to help affected communities.
She is part of a three-person team in an ambulance which, when we spoke to her, was winding through the busy outskirts of Tete. Ferrying the team to Chimbondi Accommodation Center, which is now home to over 500 families whose homes and lives were shattered by Cyclone Idai. They are now living in tents spread across a woodland savannah with scattered baobabs - where they are at greater risk of contracting communicable diseases. The need for basic healthcare services has increased significantly since the setting has heightened the chances of contracting communicable diseases.
Eager to start helping
Zaida is eager to begin her day at the Center. This is because she is aware of the healthcare needs of the community in this hard-to-reach area. They arrive at the Accommodation Centre, to provide critical life-saving services to the people who were affected living at Chimbondi.
Zaida’s station is the AMODEFA clinic, which is a large green tent. Right outside the tent is a makeshift bench where two clients who had just arrived are seated. Zaida exchanges greetings with the two ladies and smiles as opens the wooden door of the tent. Her smile is so contagious that the two clients could not help but smile back. She proceeds to set up the space to receive her first clients of the day.
Rays of hope
It is outstanding just how Zaida goes about her work with exemplary ease despite the setting. One of the clients she welcomes is a mother-of-one in her twenties who had not heard of family planning before. Zaida requests to show her the various forms of contraception available. The young woman is intrigued by how Zaida displays the contraceptive methods. She opts for the long-term method. After a few minutes of minor surgery, the woman walks out with a contraceptive that will last her a few years.
Staff members like Zaida demonstrate that AMODEFA’s response not only ensures that the dignity of the people living in humanitarian settings is restored, it also gives them a ray of hope that the future is better by providing freedom of choice.