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Coastal town in Mozambique reeling but on the move after Cyclone Favio

© UNICEF/2007/Delvigne-Jean
Children are weighed as part of a routine consultation at Vilanculo’s severely damaged main hospital one day after Cyclone Favio devastated the town in Mozambique.

By Sarah Crowe

VILANCULOS, Mozambique, 28 February 2007 – Just 48 hours after Tropical Cyclone Favio almost flattened chunks of this tranquil Mozambican coastal town, the people of Vilanculos were on the move – mending roofs, fixing broken power lines, cutting up fallen trees, carting off corrugated roofing and sweeping up debris.

Remarkably, very few people were killed or injured in the area. Three babies were even born in the early hours of the cyclone.

But the damage was vast. The main market collapsed into shredded pieces of poles, bricks and steel frames. Solid steel sheets could be seen wrapped like paper around lampposts.

The cyclone damaged about 130,000 homes and displaced almost 160,000 people – half of them children – many of whom are living in temporary camps.

Prevention of disease outbreaks

As soon as the cyclone died down, UNICEF set up tents as new temporary wards for the main hospital here. UNICEF also began working with local authorities to use tents as temporary schools and to ensure that additional teachers are available to staff these facilities.

The lack of fresh water in the storm’s aftermath brings the danger of water-borne diseases such as diarrhoea and cholera. To guard against these threats, UNICEF staff have installed water bladders at key points around town and worked with communities to construct latrines. In addition, they have been dispatching chlorine for water purification, jerry cans to carry water, information leaflets about preventing cholera, supplementary food, emergency kits and insecticide-treated malaria nets.

© UNICEF/2007/Delvigne-Jean
In Vilanculos, school administrator Sandra Alberto and her five-year-old son sit in front of their house, which was severely damaged by the cyclone that struck coastal Mozambique.

The Mozambican military has been deployed to help with the rehabilitation of homes, schools, hospitals and infrastructure.

“The Government of Mozambique has been using the military in a very useful way in terms of disaster management,” said UNICEF Water and Sanitation Officer Antero Pina. “They have set up the tents, they’ve set up the water bladders, they’ve set up the latrines. We are very happy with this collaboration.”

Losing precious schooling

Some 220 schools were flattened by the cyclone. Local authorities have estimated that it will take up to five weeks to repair the damaged schools, for which they will need zinc sheets, wooden poles and nails. UNICEF is working with authorities to supply these building materials.

Children, now out of school, can only gaze at the wreck of their old classrooms. Education officials are concerned that they’re losing precious schooling.

As school administrator Sandra Alberto walks through the ruins of her office, she recalls the night of the cyclone, when she and her children ran for cover in the dark early hours.

“There were sheets of zinc flying around all over the place. We had to run to find refuge wherever we could, but it was impossible to be outside,” said Ms. Alberto. “We had to grab and hold onto the children because the winds were so strong we were scared they would be taken away.”

Preparing for what’s next

Cyclone Favio hit the east coast of Mozambique just two weeks after flooding, further north in the Zambezi Valley, destroyed the homes of 160,000 people.

“It is rare for a country to be hit by two massive and simultaneous emergencies within such a short period of time,” said UNICEF Representative in Mozambique Leila Pakkala. “Mozambique responded quickly to the flooding but all our problems around water and sanitation, shelter, health, and education are now exacerbated by this severe cyclone.”

Two more storms have formed in the Indian Ocean: Tropical Cyclone Gamede and Tropical Cyclone 16S. Both are gathering speed and are headed towards Madagascar. UNICEF is monitoring the progress of both.

Val Wang contributed to this story from New York.




27 February 2007:
UNICEF correspondent Sarah Crowe reports from Mozambique on the aftermath of Cyclone Favio.
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28 February 2007:
UNICEF Water and Sanitation Officer Antero Pina talks about efforts to help families in cyclone-affected Vilanculos, Mozambique.
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