Aid to Mozambique

People displaced by Cyclone Idai first need food, then shelter. International charity organizations quickly donated seeds and distributed farming tools, but even if the seeds are immediately planted, there will still be a gap of several months before the crops can be harvested. Having just escaped the storm, how will survivors face food shortages and a sanitation and hygiene crisis?

Volunteers pack relief goods at the Tzu Chi Home in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, to be delivered to areas devastated by Cyclone Ida. Cyclone Idai swept across three African countries in March 2019, causing heavy losses of human lives and property.

It was late in the afternoon on April 3, 2019. Somewhere in Mahotas, Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, about 500 people, most of them women, worked busily sorting and packing goods. Laughter sometimes rang out as they hustled and bustled about. Some even occasionally broke into a dance or song. People who didn’t know better might think that a festival was underway there.

These people were Tzu Chi volunteers in Mozambique. They were at the Tzu Chi Home preparing 5,000 packs of relief supplies, each pack weighing over 20 kilograms (44 lbs), to be rushed to areas ravaged by Cyclone Idai. They had been working night and day for over two weeks, and they would continue for a while longer.

These volunteers were doing unpaid work, but they cheerfully gave of themselves because they knew that the goods they were preparing would be put to good use and help get needy people through a difficult time in the aftermath of the disaster.

Putting aid in the hands of victims

To start at the beginning, we have to go back to March 2019, when Cyclone Idai tore through Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe, leaving a trail of devastation in its path.

Idai first made landfall in Mozambique as a tropical depression on March 4. After a five-day trek over land, the storm headed back out into the Mozambique Channel. It grew in strength and speed while it was over the ocean. On March 15, the storm hit land for the second time near Beira, the capital of Sofala Province, central Mozambique. Packing winds of up to 175 km/h (110 mph) and dropping a prodigious amount of rain, Idai wreaked havoc in Mozambique, taking more than 600 lives and destroying and damaging hundreds of thousands of structures, including more than 3,000 classrooms. Over 710,000 hectares (1,754,000 acres) of farmland were submerged in floods.

Tzu Chi volunteers in Mozambique quickly mobilized to provide emergency assistance for victims. Volunteer Dino Foi flew from Maputo to Beira on March 20 to assess post-disaster conditions and needs. At the same time, Tzu Chi staffer Su Po-chia (蘇柏嘉) and a team of native Mozambican volunteers drove more than 1,200 kilometers (745 miles) over roads that were very muddy and badly damaged in many places to arrive in Grudja, a hard-hit area in Sofala Province. They distributed rice to local residents on March 27. Then they headed to Dombe, Manica Province, to give out more rice to cyclone victims there.

Muchai is a small riverside village in Dombe. When Cyclone Idai hit, rising river water overflowed into the village, sweeping away houses and killing 119 people. The village became like an isolated island after the cyclone; people could only get in and out by boat. On March 30, villagers came by boat to receive aid from Tzu Chi volunteers. The village tribal chief told volunteers that this was the first time aid had reached them after the storm. Tzu Chi distributed 15 bags of rice, which could last the village three weeks.

Meanwhile, more supplies were trucked in from Maputo. On March 31, volunteers held another distribution at a temporary shelter in Dondo District, Sofala Province, about 36 kilometers (22 miles) from Beira. There were 150 tents at the shelter, accommodating about 400 families or 2,900 people. Food was in very short supply. Volunteers gave tent residents food, other daily necessities, mosquito nets, and water-purifying liquids, enough to last a family of five for a month.

The distribution took place at about two in the afternoon and the sun was hot. Before the event kicked off, volunteers served drinking water to the waiting crowds. The disaster areas needed clean water, so people were very happy when they saw the potable water served by volunteers. They eagerly gulped the water down as soon as they had received it. Volunteers felt for the victims when they saw how much they longed for a simple cup of water.

Nhamatanda, 106 kilometers from Beira, was another hard-hit area. Eighty percent of the district was damaged by the cyclone with over 50,000 families affected. On April 7, Tzu Chi volunteers from the United States, Taiwan, China, and South Africa joined their counterparts in Mozambique and began distributing aid in villages there, including Nhamatanda, Tica, and Lamego. Each family received cornmeal, beans, cooking oil, salt, soap, spoons, toothpaste, toothbrushes, water purifying liquids, and other supplies. By mid-April, over 5,000 households had received aid.

Many victims arrived very early at a distribution site because they were afraid of missing the chance to receive aid. Most of them had gone hungry for days. An older woman burst into tears when she received her supplies and, holding a volunteer’s hand firmly in hers, kept saying thanks. Then, mustering all her strength, she hoisted the heavy supplies onto her head and tottered back to her home.

Volunteers accompanied Anastacia, a physically challenged recipient, back to her home. She had come to the distribution venue on a tricycle. Volunteers pushed her tricycle, which had become much heavier with the supplies, for over 40 minutes to reach her home. On the way there, they saw many villagers rebuilding their simple, crude houses. Their original homes had been damaged or destroyed by the cyclone.

Anastacia makes a living by selling peanuts. She had made about six U.S. dollars a month before the cyclone. The supplies she received on this day were enough to last her family for a month. In order to make sure that she knew how to use the water-purifying liquids distributed by Tzu Chi, volunteers slowly explained each step to her.

Afterwards, Anastacia took out the beans she had just received and began fixing dinner for her family. “We haven’t had a real meal in a long time,” she said. “Thanks to Tzu Chi for allowing our stomachs to be warmed.”


Cyclone Idai has triggered one challenge after another for Mozambique. In addition to the huge devastation it caused, the storm led to a significant surge of cholera cases in the nation. Furthermore, since considerable areas of farmland were ruined, resulting in severe crop losses, food shortages are very likely to follow in the disaster areas, triggering another humanitarian crisis.

Displaced people need food first, then shelter. According to statistics from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, food enough to feed nearly one million people was quickly donated to the needy in the aftermath of the cyclone. The Food and Agriculture Organization and charity groups in different countries have also provided 1,800,000 tons of seeds for planting, and a distribution of farming utensils has been set in motion. Even so, even if fields are immediately tilled and seeds planted, there will be a gap of several months before the crops will be harvested. It appears inevitable that food will be in short supply.

On top of that, before their homes are rebuilt, many survivors still need to live in shelters with poor sanitary conditions. Their hygiene and health is another big concern. The road to recovery is long. Tzu Chi volunteers will continue to extend aid and care to the needy.



A child in the village of Tica, Nhamatanda, Sofala Province, tries to start a fire to cook near the tent he is taking shelter in.
At a temporary shelter made up of tents in the village of Tica, children line up for meals provided by charity organizations from abroad.


A worker from a provincial health clinic in Sofala Province feeds a woman an oral vaccine for cholera provided by a foreign charity organization.
A tract of farmland submerged in floodwater is a playground for a child.
People in the village of Lamego, Nhamatanda, use a public pump to obtain water from underground to drink.



At a distribution venue in Nhamatanda, an aid recipient touches her cheek to a photo of Master Cheng Yen out of gratitude for the foundation’s help.
Volunteers help aid recipients carry relief supplies.
A cyclone victim smiles while holding relief supplies distributed by Tzu Chi. The foundation has dedicated a lot of manpower and resources to helping victims of Cyclone Idai in the hope of easing their burden.


May 2019