One week since Cyclone Idai swept through Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe leaving destruction in its wake, the situation for children remains desperate. More than 1.7 million people have been affected in Mozambique alone, and the death toll continues to climb.
In Beira, the country’s fourth-biggest city, thousands of residents remain isolated, without electricity or safe water. And while the rains have decreased in intensity, the rivers are rising, and flooding is increasing. Families who have lost their homes are living in tents at emergency shelters, and we have reports of rural villages outside the city that have literally disappeared under water.
In the worst-affected areas, families are in urgent need of water and sanitation, food, and shelter. Children have been left terribly vulnerable to malaria and other waterborne diseases, shops are running out of food, and only one hospital is functional.
At our village community in Beira, which is home to 147 vulnerable children, food and water purification treatments are having to be flown in from Maputo – 1,200 km away. Thankfully, all the children under our care are safe, but for those growing up in the surrounding communities, many of whom we support through our family strengthening programmes, schools and social centres, the risk remains high.
Many of the families we support remain unaccounted for. We are searching for them and can only hope they have found safety in one of the temporary shelters across the city. Already living in precarious situations, many will have seen their homes and livelihoods swept away by the floods, and their recovery will be slow and hard-won.
Humanitarian assistance is needed today, but it will not be enough.
Children and families desperately need the food, clean water, and healthcare that we provide, but they also need our help long-term – to provide psychological support and assistance with rebuilding their homes, livelihoods and communities.
Many of the children have experienced traumas that will require long-term care. Flash floods have destroyed crops and home-gardens across the city, leaving families without a means to grow their own food or make a living. And the damage caused to schools could take weeks, if not months, to repair - bringing further disruption to children’s daily routines that play such an important role in every child’s life.
We need to act now to restore children’s education and provide protection and emotional support for those caught up in this terrible disaster. SOS medical and mental health specialists are on their way to Beira to join our family strengthening teams already on the scene. But we also need to work, worldwide, to increase the sustainability of communities in vulnerable situations so they are better prepared when disasters strike.
Being prepared is the only way to minimise the impact of future disasters on children and families and protect the world’s most vulnerable.
SOS Children’s Villages has been caring for children without parental care and vulnerable families in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi for decades, so we are well-placed to offer children and families the long-term support they need to recover from natural disasters like Cyclone Idai. While other aid organisations focus on short-term emergency responses to disasters, we support communities’ long term- helping families rebuild their livelihoods, supporting communities to reopen their schools and services, and offering children who have lost their parents the chance to grow up with the support and protection of a loving family.
Our village community in Beiru was luckily not badly damaged when Cyclone Idai struck, and all the children are safe. Work continues to remove downed trees and debris and repair damaged homes. All of the children living at the Beiru village community had already suffered the loss of their parents – due to bereavement, abandonment, neglect or abuse – and have been offered a second chance at a family-like upbringing with their SOS parents and siblings.
SOS Children's Villages provides essential care in emergency situations all around the world. You can help us keep children and families affected by disaster and conflict safe by making a donation today.