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Photo story

Humans of Idai: Beira struggles on

©VSO/Mário Macilau

Award-winning photographer Mário Macilau’s powerful images capture how people in the cyclone-stricken city are fighting for survival.

When Cyclone Idai, having amassed huge power from the warm waters of the Indian Ocean, finally reached land, it struck one of the most densely inhabited cities in Mozambique.

Beira is an important port town in Mozambique's central Sofala province. A cluster of industrial and domestic settlements where the Pungwe river meets the sea, it is home to well over half a million people. Most of them didn't realise the gravity of the storm that was heading towards them three weeks ago.

Fernando outside his home in Beira ©VSO/Mário Macilau

Fernando Tomás Sangalaza, 39, did not realise how dangerous the approaching storm was.

Fernando Tomás Sangalaza, 39, was living in Beira with his family when the storm hit. He knew something was coming but had no idea of the scale of destructive power of Cyclone Idai.

"I didn't know it would be this extreme or dangerous," says Fernando, who works as a security guard, earning about USD $50 a month to support his wife and five children. After damage was sustained to their house, the family has been left without a safe home.

"I heard in advance the cyclone was coming, but we didn't have any other place to go, so we couldn't leave. We don't even have money to afford any relocation now."

A family outside their destroyed home in Beira, Mozambique ©VSO/Mário Macilau

A family outside their destroyed home in Beira, Mozambique.

Cyclone Idai hit Beira with wind speeds over 105mph, tearing rooves off buildings and causing catastrophic damage to the basic, tin-roofed, dwellings of its poorest residents. Many people have been displaced or made homeless, with an estimated 11,000 homes destroyed.

Some, like the woman below, have moved under bridges and other temporary shelters to escape the worst of the elements. 

A woman cooking under a bridge in Beira ©VSO/Mário Macilau

A woman cooks on a makeshift stove

It's not just homes that have been lost. 3,000 schools are thought to have been destroyed across Mozambique, disrupting education for hundreds of thousands of children.

Many schools left relatively unscathed have been closed and repurposed as temporary shelters for people who have been made homeless.

A child sits in an empty classroom in Beira ©VSO/Mário Macilau

A child sits in an empty classroom in Beira, benches stacked up to make room for people who now rely on this space as a temporary home.

Beyond Beira itself, many people in rural areas of Sofala and Manica have also sustained heavy losses to food stores and fields of crops they rely on for survival and livelihoods. People are pushing on, doing all they can to reduce their losses and find a way of surviving amidst the floodwaters.

A man works to recover his flooded field ©VSO/Mário Macilau

Everyday people are working to try to recover their flooded fields

VSO volunteers are beginning the distribution of food and other emergency supplies in Manica province this week, and have been providing psychosocial support to the survivors of Idai.

A child stands in floodwaters in Mozambique ©VSO/Mário Macilau

Walking through the floodwaters, 12-year-old Teresa is lucky to be alive. She is still affected by what she saw during the storm.

VSO is already on the ground, with our community volunteers supporting people's immediate needs in Mozambique and Zimbabwe. But so much more is needed, not just to deal with the emergency, but to help people get back onto their feet in the long term.

The survivors of Idai have been pushed to the limits, showing strength and courage. But it's not enough – we need to work together to support them to face the days, months and years ahead with resilience and resources to rebuild their lives.

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