Coronavirus the latest contagion in northern Mozambique

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Flag of Mozambique

from ARIMANDO DOMINGOS in Maputo, Mozambique
MAPUTO, (CAJ News) THE mere mention of the terms “cyclone” and “Kenneth” still send a shiver down the spine of Adelino Guambe.

This is as if the displacement from her home after one of the most severe weather phenomena to batter Mozambique happened in recent days.

She and her small family are among thousands left homeless when, exactly a year ago, Cyclone Kenneth struck the already-volatile northern parts of the country.

The stormy weather left more than 40 people dead in its wake, mostly in the province of Cabo Delgado.

“I still suffer nightmares,” said a traumatised Guambe.

A year after the disaster, she, her two children and sister, are struggling to make ends meet having seen their livelihoods wiped by the tragedy.

“The memories of the destruction will forever remain in my heart. How we managed to survive the deadly weather is a miracle,” the 39-year-old woman said.

The small family is among some 6 000 civilians still sheltering in tents.

More than 200 000 people are still living in damaged homes.

With sustained winds of 220 km/h, Cyclone Kenneth struck Cabo Delgado on April 25.

Apart from lives lost, infrastructure estimated at US$100 million was devastated and up to 80 percent of crops in the area were destroyed, triggering further human catastrophe.

More than 2 500 homes were destroyed in Cabo Delgado.

Multiple schools and health centres also sustained massive damage.

The disaster came at a time the province was the worst affected by a reign of terror by Islamists.

According to a National Institute for Disaster Management (INGC), the insurgency, which has left an estimated 600 people dead, has affected 162 000 people.

“The authorship of the attacks has been claimed by the Islamic State, a terrorist organisation, shows that we are facing foreign aggression perpetrated by terrorists,” read a statement by the National Defence and Security Council (CNDS).

Water-borne diseases, which affected hundreds of people in the region, are the aftermath of displacements by Cyclone Kenneth and the insurgency.

As if that is not enough, the region is now at the mercy of the coronavirus pandemic.

It is the epicentre of the virus first announced in Mozambique on March 22.

The emerging crisis has spiraled to 76 cases countrywide as of the beginning of the week. Fortunately, there have been no casualties but the scourge could not have come at a worse time for Cabo Delgado.

“While many families in Cabo Delgado are still working towards recovery one year after Cyclone Kenneth, and are affected by insecurity, yet another challenge has arrived in the form of COVID-19,” said Laura Tomm-Bonde of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

She is the organisation’s Officer-in-Charge in Mozambique.

Tomm-Bonde lamented, “These families are already very vulnerable.”

IOM noted Cabo Delgado was particularly vulnerable to disease outbreaks.

The province has one of the highest HIV infection rates in the Southern African country of an estimated 31 million people.

This raises concern COVID-19 would be problematic to contain if it spreads within local communities.

Statistics indicate most casualties of the virus have underlying health conditions.

On a positive note, last week, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved a disbursement of $309 million to help Mozambique meet urgent balance of payment and fiscal needs stemming from the COVID-19.

The United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund, which allocated $10 million for the response to Cyclone Kenneth, has allocated an additional $7 million to respond to escalating needs in Cabo Delgado.

The World Food Programme (WFP) plans to assist more than 84 000 people in the most affected districts.

– CAJ News

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