Mozambicans silenced by cyclone regain their voice

from ARIMANDO DOMINGOS in Maputo, Mozambique
MAPUTO, (CAJ News) APART from the death of more than 600 people and injury of thousands others, Cyclone Idai ravaged infrastructure inflicted an estimated US$773 million in damage when it landed in Mozambique in March.

Among the trail of destruction was telecommunications equipment, which left more than 1,9 million people without access to radio- the principal source of information in rural Mozambique.

A majority of those denied this service is in the hardest hit Sofala Province.

The districts of Beira, Búzi, Dondo, Gorongosa, Nhamatanda and Sofala bore the brunt.

Thanks to a multi-stakeholder partnership to rehabilitate infrastructure, these communities are once again able to tune in to their favourite radio stations.

Now with new communications towers, antennas and electronic equipment, community radio transmissions are active again.

The Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC), led by the World Food Programme (WFP), initiated the refurbishment.

Radio messages can be broadcast empowering communities prepare for future cyclones in the disaster-prone country. Useful messages on how to how to avoid diseases such as cholera and malaria in the aftermath of a cyclone are broadcast as well as measures to locate loved ones when disaster hits.

“When disasters like cyclones strike, communication is vital,” said Enrica Porcari, Chairperson of the ETC.

“It is essential not only for humanitarians to respond efficiently and effectively but also for affected populations to have access to communications so they can find out lifesaving information about the response and assistance available to them, but also to reach out to their families and friends.”

The ETC has collaborated with the National Forum of Community Radios (FORCOM) to revive the six radio stations in the region.

Feroza Zacarias, FORCOM’s Executive Director, said without the support of the stakeholders, those community radios were in danger of completely disappearing.

“When a community radio disappears the community’s ability to access to information is in jeopardy,” The official said.

Zacarias said populations in most of the rural areas of Mozambique rely entirely on community radios to stay informed and to actively participate in local development.

Karin Manente, WFP Mozambique Director, said the joint initiatives could better bridge the gap between humanitarian response and recovery as well as rebuilding destroyed infrastructure as well as addressing people’s access to information.

The prevailing sentiment among stakeholders is that while natural disasters cannot be prevented their impact can be reduced by preparing local communities before these events occur.

In another development the U$500 million the World Bank made available for Mozambique for restoration projects in the wake of the Idai.

The road and bridge restoration exercise has re-established links between agricultural product growers and consumers, restored communities’ access to education and health services and restored lost trade between Mozambique and its neighbouring countries.

Mozambique share borders with Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The bank’s financial package included $110 million in additional funding for the country’s Integrated Rural Roads Development Project, funded through the International Development Association, the World Bank Group’s fund for the poorest countries.

“I’m very pleased to see that these funds are already resulting in several tangible results on the ground,” said Mark Lundell, World Bank Director for Mozambique, Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles and Comoros.

The deadliest tropical cyclone recorded in the South-West Indian Ocean basin, Idai was one of the worst tropical cyclones on record in Africa and the Southern Hemisphere.

It also caused catastrophic damage in Malawi and Zimbabwe, leaving more than 1 300 people dead and many more missing while property worth millions of dollars destroyed.

– CAJ News

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