慈濟傳播人文志業基金會
After the Storm

Cyclone Dineo hit Mozambique in February this year following a dry year in 2016. The prolonged drought and then the storm made the lives of impoverished people even harder. Tzu Chi volunteers sprang into action to help those in need.

 

A SUMMER STORM IN THE SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE

Tropical Cyclone Dineo battered Mozambique, southeastern Africa, after making landfall in Inhambane Province on February 15, 2017. The storm left a trail of destruction in its path, taking seven lives and injuring 55 people. More than 650,000 people were affected, and nearly 1,000 classrooms, 70 health centers, and over 20,000 homes were destroyed.

Over 3,000 Tzu Chi volunteers live in Maputo Province, about 600 kilometers from where the storm landed. After three consecutive days of heavy rainfall came to a stop, volunteers from 24 communities split up into groups and visited Tzu Chi care recipients to see how the disaster had affected them.

Celeste, a 76-year-old woman who lives alone, sat staring into space outside her house in Matola. Her sheet-metal roof had been blown apart in the storm. In its stead she had cobbled together a makeshift roof with a few blankets and plastic bags. Though she herself had emerged from the cyclone unscathed, she was running out of food. Volunteers sang the Tzu Chi song “One Family” for her to soothe her nerves. Then when they left they told her, “We’ll be back to see you soon!”

 

NO WATER, THENTOO MUCH WATER

Walking across muddy ground and sometimes wading through standing water, volunteers helped each other along the road to Santos.

Alexandre, an old man who lived in a low-lying area, was very happy to see the volunteers. “Our tribal chief told us to get prepared for the big storm. I did as he said and fastened my roof.” His house was happily not damaged as a result.

But many other people did not fare so well. Most impoverished residents in the suburban areas live in simple sheds built with thatch and metal sheets, which did poorly in the storm.

The heavy rains resulted in standing water in many places, but a silver lining was that they helped relieve a water shortage problem. People put out all kinds of containers to catch the rain, and now they finally had water to wash themselves and do the dishes.

Mozambique had a dry year in 2016. As a result of that, a water rationing program was launched in the Greater Maputo area in January 2017. Yet just about a month later, Cyclone Dineo struck, causing serious flooding. The pendulum swings of weather really showed volunteers the power of climate change.

 

AN AID RECIPIENT’SSMILE

Poor infrastructure made it hard for floodwater to drain. That, coupled with the hot weather, led to an increase in cases of cholera and malaria. Food prices also escalated, making the lives of destitute people even harder. To help out, Tzu Chi volunteers held two large-scale rice distributions on February 20 and 27 at the Tzu Chi office in Mahotas, Maputo City.

In addition to the large distributions, volunteers also delivered relief goods to the homes of people who had difficulty moving around. Some roads were still impassable, so they often had to take detours, leaving them without time for lunch. But they did not mind at all. The happiness that came from helping others made them forget their hunger or fatigue.

Celeste knew the volunteers were visiting her again before they reached her home because she heard their singing from some distance off. She went to sit in front of her home to wait for them. When the volunteers arrived, they surrounded the elderly woman and warmly asked how she had been doing. Then they handed over a bag of rice and a mosquito net.

“Do you still remember the song ‘One Family’ we sang to you the last time we visited you?” the volunteers asked. Then they burst into the song: “Because we are family….”

Celeste broke into a happy smile. Whatever sadness she might have had due to the storm was dissolved in laughter and the cheerful, warm atmosphere.

 

BECAUSE WE ARE FAMILY

Isabel Langa, another cyclone victim, was surprised to see the volunteers visiting her so soon again. Barely two days had passed since their last visit, and they even brought her rice and a mosquito net this time.

Volunteers also went to the home of Joana Macuacua, a Tzu Chi volunteer whose house had also been damaged in the storm. Some time ago, Joana introduced a neighbor, Marcia, into Tzu Chi, and on this day it was Marcia who handed her the rice and mosquito net. Joana was so happy to see the effect of love relayed from one person to another.

The Tzu Chi mission of charity has really taken root locally. Every day so many people visit the Tzu Chi office that a bus stop has been set up right in front of it to make it more accessible. Volunteers and care recipients no longer have to walk 20 minutes from the office to the bus stop. The office—which local volunteers call the “Tzu Chi Home”—has become a center of love.

Summer 2017