Mozambique Cyclone: Children Talk of Death and Destruction a Month after the Storm
FAIRFIELD, Conn. (April 14, 2019) — One month after Cyclone Idai wreaked havoc across Mozambique, impacted children are showing signs of severe psychological stress, including bedwetting, nightmares and anxiety, Save the Children warned today. The agency is concerned the urgent and long-term needs of children continue to grow as international attention moves on from the humanitarian crisis.
Save the Children spoke with children and their families in one of the temporary settlements in the port city of Beira about their experiences during and after the cyclone. The children were asked to draw their homes before and after the cyclone and describe what they had seen.
All families interviewed spoke of losing their homes and possessions in the storm, and many saw people killed or injured. Several parents spoke of their children becoming clingier or more aggressive following their ordeal.
“The children have changed,” said Regina, 29, whose daughter Belinha is 6. “Sometimes they will get angry, sometimes they keep asking how we will get back. It's a war for them. My 6-year-old is wetting the bed much more since the cyclone.”
Ines, 11, was separated from her two brothers and her father when Cyclone Idai swept through her community in Buzi, one of the worst-hit areas in Mozambique. Her father was hit on his back and his neck when their house collapsed, and she was separated from her brothers when she climbed aboard a rescue boat. She hasn’t seen any of them since.
Ines drew a picture with people dead and drowning in floodwaters, surrounded by broken trees.
“If people didn’t hold each other’s hands, they’d fall in the water,” she said. I nearly fell down in a lagoon, then my aunty grabbed me. I held her handbag. We went to another neighbor’s house. When we arrived there, I fell down. And then I started saying Help! Help! Help! Help!”
Faizal, 10, drew his house before the cyclone as a colorful, warm space that he shared with his family. His drawing of his house during the cyclone is a grim, colorless picture with a person being decapitated by a corrugated iron sheet.
Cyclone Idai made landfall in Beira on March 14, destroying houses, schools, warehouses and crops in its path, ripping through the daily lives of children. Close to 1 million children were affected and many are now living in tents, schools or in temporary settlements, with limited access to clean water or sanitation.
“We are extremely concerned about the long-term wellbeing for the children in the aftermath of this devastating cyclone,” said Maria Waade, Save the Children’s mental health and psychosocial support specialist in Mozambique. “Seeing everything you love and know being destroyed in the blink of an eye is a horrific experience that no child should have to live through, and the impact will be felt by children long after the floodwaters recede.
“Many children we have spoken to have seen their parents or siblings swept away by the floods or have witnessed their homes crumble around them. One girl we met saw her mother for the last time as she was pushing her onto a roof for safety. Her mother didn’t make it. These stories are frighteningly common, and this consultation shows that beyond rebuilding homes and livelihoods, we also need to focus on making sure children and their families receive the mental health support they need to recover from these experiences.
Save the Children has been on the ground in Mozambique since before the cyclone struck and is rolling out a child protection and psychosocial support program, in addition to providing emergency shelter, food and healthcare. As part of this, the organization has set up Child Friendly Spaces in and around Beira and will create up to 50 more spaces in the coming weeks. Save the Children is also helping children resume their education and is running mobile health clinics to reach vulnerable children in remote areas.
Child Friendly Spaces give children a place to play, learn, express themselves and interact with other children under the supervision of trained staff. They are a first and important step toward helping children recover, and the staff are trained to recognize signs of distress that require referral to a specialist for further assessment and treatment. Save the Children has also been helping parents and caregivers in supporting children who suffer from stress.
“Children in the path of the cyclone have had their lives torn apart. They deserve to remain in the eyes of the world,” said Save the Children’s response team leader, Machiel Pouw. “While they need support with food and with rebuilding their schools and houses, the children and their families also need our long-term commitment to help them recover from their experiences. After a disaster of this scale, the world must not look away.”
To learn more about Save the Children’s work in Mozambique, visit: http://savethechildren.org/mozambique.
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