Mozambique is still recovering from the effects of two cyclones that hit the country earlier this year, leaving hundreds of people dead.
Cyclone Idai in mid-March brought widespread flooding that created an “inland ocean” and left panicked residents clinging to rooftops and trees for days across central Mozambique, the country’s breadbasket. In the region’s main city of Beira, population roughly 500,000, many rooftops were peeled away.
Six weeks later Kenneth arrived in the northernmost province of Cabo Delgado, shocking residents who had never experienced such a powerful storm. A long swathe of coastal communities was destroyed, and some areas are still difficult or impossible to reach.
Without that intervention, aid agencies fear the worst is yet to come. The storm wiped out crops in one of the world’s poorest countries, and millions may have to depend on food aid for survival in the coming year, with the UN estimating 1.3 million people currently requiring emergency food aid.
“After natural disasters like cyclone Idai, it is the national government that has to take a leading role to aid recovery,” said Edward F. Clancy, director of outreach for the pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need.
“Unfortunately, the Mozambican government hasn’t been able to meet this urgent demand and many people have been left stranded without support. In some cases, the government has made the problems even worse because of corruption and malfeasance,” Clancy told Crux.
And response has been particularly hard for a country that in recent years has been faced with numerous economic challenges, including the suspension of lending to the government by the International Monetary Fund.
“International relief has come in, but unfortunately it has not been sufficient to meet all the needs. Efforts will continue, though and over time, more people will be helped,” Clancy said.
He said the lack of clean drinking water and its consequences, such as cholera and other waterborne diseases, constitute some of the major challenges. In addition, there are “areas that have become isolated because of roadway and infrastructure damage; destruction of crops and fields in communities where subsistence farming is common; and lack of enough basic food stuffs to feed thousands of families in need.”
The twin natural disasters have only worsened things in a country that is still finding it hard recovering from its 15-year-long civil war, which ended in 1992.
The conflict began in 1977, just two years after the country gained independence from Portugal, and pitted the Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO) led by President Samora Machel against the Mozambican National Resistance (RENAMO) led by André Matsangaissa. The civil war claimed over a million lives.
Although the war officially ended in 1992, its wounds, in the words of Bishop Adriano Langa of Inhambane, “are not as easy to close as a tap.”
Clancy also said the war has had a lasting impact on the Southern African country.
“The aftereffects of a war can take a generation or more to heal, but wars that last for many generations can completely upset a societal structure. Mozambique has now gone from a protracted civil war to newer wars,” he told Crux.
These fratricidal conflicts destroy “trust between neighbors and simple political disputes can quickly escalate into violence,” Clancy added.
He said the Church has been on the forefront of “quelling violence and seeking dialogue and peace. It is likely that it will be a slow healing process which needs extraordinary leadership.”
With Pope Francis set to visit the country in September, there are hopes the language of peace and reconciliation will once more resonate across the country.
“We hope that the Holy Father’s visit may stir a greater desire for peace and understanding. We must pray for their people and for the Holy Father’s visit,” Clancy said.
He said he believed Francis will speak of the urgent need to help the people who were devastated by the cyclone and about the need for peaceful coexistence.
“I hope that he speaks of their potential to heal if they each take extraordinary steps to forgive and to see each other as brothers and sisters and not as enemies,” he continued. “Africa is a continent of such great potential because of its people and natural beauty. We pray that war and fighting will not impede them from growing into their potential.”
This article incorporated material from the Associated Press.