March 22, 2019 / 5:14 PM / in a month

Shortages of everything, and worries about relatives, for Mozambique flood survivors

GUARA GUARA, Mozambique (Reuters) - At a camp near the city of Beira for people rescued from Mozambique’s catastrophic flooding, residents were dealing on Friday with worries about their future and shortages of pretty much everything - water, food and medicines.

Locals watch as a helicopter lands in Guara Guara after Cyclone Idai outside Beira, Mozambique, March 22, 2019. REUTERS/Emma Rumney

Also, painfully, some of them lacked information about how their relatives were faring.

Aid organizations such as the World Food Programme and Red Cross are delivering food, water, shelter and other basic supplies to the camp at Guara Guara, which was set up by the government, and scores of others like it in the flood zone around Beira.

But with roads cut off, progress is slow. Camps like the one at Guara Guara, 45 km (30 miles) west of Beira, can be reached only by helicopter. There are a limited number of craft available and they are in huge demand.

Fernando Marevere, a local village chief, said the main concern for new arrivals at Guara Guara was food and medicines, which were both in short supply.

Eight large tents were sent to the camp on Wednesday, but on Friday most people were outside in the blazing sun, or huddling into small patches of shade cast by the branches of sparse trees.

People also took shelter in the village’s secondary school – whose roof was still intact – sitting or slumped, head down, at its wooden desks. A number of elderly women were curled up on their side on the dirt floor.

Fresh water was in low supply and there were no toilets. The camp’s residents, numbering in the hundreds, washed in a stream nearby.

Medical tents were small and cramped.

A young boy bawled as doctors worked on a deep cut on his foot, as a family friend held him still and shielded his face from the gore.

Augusto Jose, a pharmacy technician who had come from Beira to help, told Reuters the main concern was malaria, and how to diagnose it with so few tests at hand.

Esther Zinge, 60, from near the town of Buzi, had not eaten anything yet on Friday. She had missed breakfast while waiting in line with her husband for the doctor, because he was unwell.

“The help is coming, but it’s coming very slowly,” she said, adding that what did arrive had to be given to children first.

“We had to ask a local hospital for soya milk so we can stretch out the food. All we’ve had so far is biscuits,” she said. “The conditions are terrible, and more people keep coming.”

Cyclone Idai pummeled the port city of Beira and its low-lying surrounds last week with ferocious winds and tore inland, dumping torrential rains and causing massive flooding in swathes of Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi.

The storm killed 242 people in Mozambique and 259 in Zimbabwe, and numbers were expected to rise, relief agencies said. In Malawi, 56 died in heavy rains before the onset of Idai.

‘MISSING FAMILIES’

Left with nothing, many people at Guara Guara were concerned for their future or the health of their small children. But the biggest fear, a number of people said, was for relatives and friends they had not heard from since the waters started rising.

There is no electricity, phones or internet at the camp.

“I could escape, but my nephew didn’t because he was not able to walk. He was sick and now I don’t know where he is,” said Zinge.

Louisa Ndena, 60, was sitting on the ground in a white aid tent surrounded by family members and toddlers.

“Besides our missing families, the thing we are most worried about is disease,” she said, explaining that there are no toilets, and if the village’s residents would not let them use theirs, they use bushes for privacy.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said on Friday its relief efforts included sending teams to the region to help families without access to telephones or the internet find their missing relatives.

“The agony of not knowing what happened to your loved ones in a disaster like Cyclone Idea is indescribable,” said Diane Araujo, an ICRC delegate deploying to Beira.

Slideshow (3 Images)

At Guara Guara, Albino Jose Albino, 18, was alone in the camp aside from friends, without an idea about what happened to his mother or seven siblings.

He too complained about a lack of food, water and shelter, but was more angry that he had no way to register his family as missing.

“They are not giving us details about our families, our lost families,” he said. “Someone should be responsible for this.”

Additional reporting by Tom Miles in Geneva; Writing by Frances Kerry; Editing by Toby Chopra

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