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Reflections from flood affected area in Tambara District, Mozambique

Concern staff members Silvia Collazuol and Nyararai Magudu, recently visited Tambara District in Mozambique and reported their findings to the web team. Here are their reports in their own words.

Silvia Collazuol, Concern’s National Education Coordinator:

“Mozambique has been hit by floods again, nine months after the waters receded in 2007. The floods this year have come earlier and heavier than expected, challenging the resilience of the people of the Zambezi valley once again.

Last year, the floods drove people from their homes on the flood plains of the Zambezi, where they were living an autarkic life-style, with lots of space and fertile land. Visiting the resettlement zones on higher ground in the Tambara District, where 7,000 people are living since the 2007 floods, you notice quickly how life is very different here in comparison. People live in makeshift houses in a densely populated camp environment.

A new start

With support from Concern and partner Magariro, people had begun farming again by their temporary homes. The heat of the dry season helped produce the first bricks of clay. Maize had started to grow, not in the quantity and quality of the flood plains, but enough to secure a stable food supply for most families.

Now the floods and heavy rains have hit again, abruptly ending the breathing space that people like Paula so desperately needed to rebuild their lives. [Here is her account]

‘I grew up on an island, in the middle of the river. I was rescued with my family last year during the floods and decided to stay on this side. I look after my four children, while my husband travels and trades dry fish to make sure that we at least have enough to eat. Life is not easy, but at least it’s safer. The children, the two older ones, can go to school, and when we are sick there is a health post with treatment. On the island, where we used to live, you don’t have all this. But there I had at least a good machamba (small farm) and goats. Here we don’t have a good machamba yet. Now the rain has come again. The roof of our new house has started leaking. Everything that we planted was washed away. There wasn’t even sufficient time to take away our drying bricks from the river bank. We have to start all over again.’”

Nyararai Magudu, Concern’s Area Coordinator in Manica reports:

“‘Fortune island’ is an optimistic name for a vulnerable place. In the dry season, it is a peninsula. When the waters rise, it becomes an isolated island, one of the many islands in the Zambezi delta. We have come here by boat and by bicycle, after communities on the main land alerted us, thousands of people are trapped here. We have come across hundreds of families already on our way to this patch of higher ground. Young voices chant: obrigado, obrigado, as children run after us. I am breathing heavily under my soaked Concern shirt. In front of me, a colleague from Save the Children is struggling to keep his bicycle straight in the mud tracks.

Cut off from mainland

In December, Fortune Island was cut off from the mainland. Early January, the lower areas of the island flooded, driving people to temporary houses on higher ground. Now more than 8,000 people have become trapped on a few patches of safe land. They live in makeshift huts, exposed to the heavy rain and storms. There are no latrines and people are forced to drink the river water, increasing the risk of a cholera outbreak. Fortune Island is a forgotten island, perhaps not the only forgotten island, has so far not received any support.

We talk with community leaders, vulnerable households and do a rapid assessment of their immediate needs. If the waters continue to rise, people will have to abandon the island all together.

Our long term presence in this province and our good relationship with the government means once we alerted local government, the governor orders an immediate plan of action. Informing the centre of our emergency operations in Caia, our colleagues work with the World Food Programme, redirecting some of their food supplies to the people of Fortune, followed by a batch of emergency kits. Our colleagues in Maputo feed our assessments to the UN, also highlighting there may be more communities, trapped on forgotten islands.

As we write this, the people of Fortune Island are now receiving the immediate support they so badly needed, but they are facing an uncertain future.

In the coming months, we will work with people to address their immediate needs. Beyond the relief of their suffering we hope to help them with the difficult choices and tough changes that are awaiting them when the waters recede.”