By Johnny Fisher
Yesterday Cyclone Kenneth made landfall near Pemba in Mozambique, the second cyclone to hit Mozambique this season. Only one month ago, Jon and I traveled to Beira in central Mozambique in response to Cyclone Idai. Damage to road infrastructure meant that Beira was cut off from many parts of the country for several days, and some surrounding towns were cut off for several weeks. The fastest way to re-connect people was through restoring the mobile networks and through FM radio stations. We worked alongside enthusiastic and welcoming volunteers from the community of Buzi, one of the worst flood-affected districts 35km south of Beira. HCR is a member of the First Response Radio (FRR) network and we were there to set up a temporary FM station providing critical information and advice to empower community members
As far as we know, it is unprecedented in for 2 cyclones to hit Mozambique in the same season. However the people of Mozambique have not been caught off guard. Learning lessons from the disconnection experienced in Beira and the surrounding regions, the government disaster management agency, INGC, supported by the institute for social communication (ICS), have been quick to put preparations in place, connecting with people in advance using the national and community radio networks and instructing people to evacuate from high risk locations. So far (1 day after landfall) the storm has had much less effect than Cyclone Idai. There is still a risk from floods, but people are connected and getting vital information through radio.
Radio will continue to provide vital connections for people after the storm passes and the floods recede. In Beira, life is already getting 'back to normal'. But we know from the stories we heard while we were in Beira and in Buzi, that below the surface, individuals and families will take a longer time to recover from loss of businesses, jobs, friends and colleagues. We met some really resilient people, but the need for psychosocial support continues.
A young man told a Buzi FM community reporter in Guara Guara settlement camp that he had been separated from his parents and had not yet reconnected with them. Radio can provide information, such as family re-unification hotline numbers, which keep people connected with other. Other vulnerable people who have been displaced and are living in camps can also hear about ways to connect to authorities outside the camps to report abuse or unfair treatment.
The day before we left Buzi, a psychologist from Médecins Sans Frontières came to the Buzi FM studio to help listeners understand the effects of trauma and to identify early symptoms of PTSD. Addressing mental health issues will be a key issue as communities rebuild and radio can play an important role.
In the days after Cyclone Idai, Buzi radio audiences were missing popular local voices while the station was off air. It was a privilege to play a part in reconnecting Buzi listeners to programme presenters like Luisa, who presents a programme for women.
We are glad to hear that Buzi FM is continuing to broadcast vital information to support their community. But there are still barriers to connection for some who lost all their belongings in the floods so HCR has arranged for 1000 radios to be transported to Beira and distributed by an international NGO partner to those who need them most in the Buzi district.
We are hopeful that Cyclone Kenneth has been robbed of its potential to damage the people of northern Mozambique. I am convinced that the pre-emptive efforts of INGC/ ICS to keep people connected through radio services has played a big part in reducing the impact of the storm.