On 14th March 2019 Tropical Cyclone Idai struck the coast of Mozambique and went on to cause catastrophic damage and loss of life across not only Mozambique, but also Zimbabwe and Malawi. Idai is one of the deadliest tropical storms on record to affect the southern hemisphere, leaving 1,300 people dead and many more missing. According to the UN, 1.7 million people lived in its path in Mozambique, over 900,000 in Malawi and many thousands more in Zimbabwe.
This story describes the devastating impact of Cyclone Idai on one specific family in Zimbabwe. When numbers affected by storms and other so-called ‘natural’ disasters are so huge it’s easy to lose sight of the trauma experienced by individual families. Mary’s story conveys the chaos and terror of being caught up in a disaster and of not knowing what happened to beloved family members.
Mary* and her husband had a dream of a strong and solid home where their children could grow up in safety. Mary’s husband used to travel to South Africa to earn money and bit by bit they were gathering the materials to build their home. They had got as far as the foundations.
Mary was living in a temporary house with her husband and two children when the terrible cyclone struck their village in Manicaland, Zimbabwe. It swept away all the building materials the family had bought.
But far worse, her husband and two children are, tragically, still missing**. She fears they are dead.
Since the disaster, Mary has been living in a tent. The local church and community have tried to help, contributing food and comfort. But Mary is fearful and longs for safe shelter.
Others have similar stories of loss and trauma. Anna* and her husband and children were sheltering in their mud and thatch house when the storm struck. With wind and rain for two days the house collapsed. Anna’s husband and one son were killed. The local church has been supporting her with food and helping her surviving child stay in school, but they are traumatised and feel desperately insecure living in a tent.
The local government officials say that the communities are now in recovery stage. They have food and are beginning to get back on their feet, but they desperately need good shelter as many vulnerable people are still living in tents.
The Diocese of Manicaland is working with the local churches and communities to build new houses for the elderly, widows and orphans. The local church will work with community leaders to identify the most vulnerable families.
The Bishop of Derby in the UK held a Harvest Appeal to help Mary and other vulnerable people to get safe shelter after the cyclone. With support from the Derby Harvest Appeal, the Diocese of Manicaland will provide 6 bags of cement and roofing sheets. The community will then bring local materials and water for mixing the cement and will construct the houses for their neighbours in need.
*Not her real name
**This story was recorded on a visit to Zimbabwe a few months after the cyclone.