By Linda Bordoni
Cyclone Kenneth is a tropical storm expected to make landfall over the northern part of Mozambique and the southern part of Tanzania by Friday.
Mozambique is struggling to recover after the devastation left by Cyclone Idai, which struck southeast Africa on 15 March near its port city, Beira, triggering floods and causing much death and destruction.
That cyclone killed over 1,000 people and displaced more than 500,000. They now have to cope with a cholera outbreak and the threat of famine in the coming months as crops and livelihoods and infrastructure has been washed away.
Father Bernardo Suate heads the Portuguese for Africa Programme of Vatican News. Originally from the city of Pemba in Mozambique, he told Linda Bordoni the people have been alerted and will hopefully take action to avoid being in the direct path of Cyclone Kenneth.
Fr Bernardo said authorities in Mozambique have alerted the population in cities like Pemba and Nacala and in other towns along the rivers encouraging them to move to less risky areas.
In the disastrous aftermath of Cyclone Idai and the flooding it triggered, authorities were accused of not having sounded the alarm bells, but Fr Bernardo said there is a warning system and usually people are alerted in time.
Concerning Cyclone Idai, he said, they probably did not expect it to be so powerful.
“Nobody could imagine that Idai would be so devastating. Maybe now that we have had this tragedy people will be more cautious and more careful and move from the river sides to better positions” he said.
He pointed out that Mozambique is used to a rainy season weather pattern with storms and floods expected between November and March, “but this time it was definitely more serious”.
“People”, he added, “do not want to leave their homes and prefer to stay and wait the storm out”, but following the tragedy caused by Cyclone Idai, “they will behave differently with Cyclone Kenneth”.
Many people have come forward to help
Regarding the current response to the far-reaching disaster caused by the Cyclone Idai, Father Bernardo noted that the national and the international communities as well as private donors and many faith-based organizations have proved to be present.
“Many people really came forward to give some help”, he said, but “on the other hand it is very difficult to handle such a dramatic situation with disrupted infrastructure, cholera and other diseases and all the issues of rebuilding or rehabilitating infrastructures. The challenges are enormous”.
The price of Climate Change
When Gracia Machel, Mozambique’s former First Lady travelled to Beira in the aftermath of Cyclone Idai, she said the city would go down in history as the first to be 90% wiped out by climate change.
Fr Bernardo agrees with this dramatic assertion saying it is most certainly the worst natural disaster to have struck his country, and that it has really brought home the fact that the people are paying the price of climate change “on their skin”.
He said it is increasingly urgent to take action both to help people deal with the effects of climate change “by behaving in a different way” and by promoting awareness regarding the consequences of climate change that cannot but be perceived across the world.
Awaiting Pope Francis
Pope Francis is scheduled to travel to Mozambique in September. Fr Bernardo said he is awaited with great trepidation by all – Government, people and Church.
“The presence of the Pope”, he said, “will be very encouraging, not only for the faithful, but also for those who are most of the times the forgotten people, the marginalized people, the people in the far-away peripheries. For them it will be an opportunity, once in a lifetime, to be in the eyes of the world”.