Courage After Catastrophe: Life for Mothers in Mozambique 

Courage After Catastrophe: Life for Mothers in Mozambique

Mozambique has been hit by two devastating cyclones within six weeks of each other. Cyclones Idai and Kenneth caused widespread destruction and a devasting loss of life, leaving communities devastated.

Heavy rains caused the banks of the Buzi river to break creating an ‘inland ocean.’ Floods tore through communities, destroying everything in their path. Thousands of standard families, many of them with young children, sought safety on top of high buildings waiting to be rescued.

On assignment for UNICEF, photographer James Oataway met with communities across Sofala province. In the aftermath of catastrophe, these mothers show us what strength, courage and resilience truly looks like.

Infant Mortality 

Mozambique mother holding her newborn baby

Marta holding her newborn baby girl. Mozambique | 2019 | Oatway 

Marta Domingo went into labour in the Muada accommodation centre in Tica, outside Beira, two weeks ago.

“I arrived in the camp on cyclone day. That day we suffered a lot,” she remembers.

“The whole house collapsed. I was running, we were seeing all the houses collapsing, I fell when I was running.”

“Marta went into labour 2 weeks after arriving in the camp. Her husband took her by bicycle to the nearest hospital where she gave birth to twins. One of her babies died the next day, she thinks he was injured when she fell while running to safety.

She is now devoting all her energy to keeping her remaining baby, Malina Seba, alive and healthy.

“My baby boy, he has no name, I still haven’t given him a name. The villagers helped me bury him because I couldn’t be there. I am recovering but sometimes I feel pain, I am sad. Malina is doing ok. Sometimes she doesn’t breastfeed. I don’t think she knows she lost her brother.

“If I get a future, if I go home, I will go back to farming to survive. I want my baby girl to have food and clothing. We have no money; the cyclone has taken everything. I want her to go to school. I can protect my family, things will get better.”

Children at Risk of Severe Acute Malnutrition 

Luisa and her baby granddaughter. Mozambique | 2019 | Oatway

Luisa Manchengo has spent the last month in the malnutrition ward of the central hospital in Beira with her granddaughter also named Luisa. Baby Luisa is suffering from severe acute malnutrition and tuberculosis.

When the floods came Luisa and some of her family climbed on top of the roof of a nearby school, where they spent 4 days waiting to be rescued. In the chaos of the disaster Luisa has become separated from her 14-year-old son, she still doesn’t know where he is.

“I didn’t know if the baby would survive. There was no food, we had nothing to eat, for four days. There were so many people on the roof. I saw many bodies floating in the water, I was very scared.”

After eventually being saved by a helicopter Luisa and her granddaughter were taken immediately to the hospital. Now that little Luisa is getting better, her grandmother is making plans to get back to her village to find her son.

“In the hospital Luisa started receiving treatment, she is getting better. When she is discharged I will go back to Buzi. We don’t have anything left. I am relieved she is better, but I need to find my son.”

Homes and Communities Destroyed 

Rosa sitting outside her home. Mozambique | 2019 | Oatway 

Cyclone Idai first made landfall in the Praia Nova settlement on the waterfront of Beria. The weak infrastructure could not withstand the strong winds leaving a path of destruction. Rosa Zachria Montangue called her children inside their tiny house to take shelter. Their roof was ripped off and the rains came in.

“We kept all the children inside the house when the cyclone hit. We wanted to keep them safe. The veranda is gone, the whole roof was ripped off. We are trying to rebuild using old chappas (zinc roofing.)

“I was very scared for my children. We feared death and thought the house would collapse. I am recovering myself, but I need to be strong for my children. I think they are traumatised. The situation has passed, I tell my children it won’t happen again. They are beginning to forget what happened. I hope Beira will rebuild.”

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