Cyclone Idai: People are starving along the ‘road of suffering’ | World News
According to the map, this stretch of highway is called route number six.
But the people who live along it call it the road of suffering – because it links dozens of communities in a region devastated by cyclone Idai.
Just outside the port city of Beira, in Mozambique, we met 200 or so evacuees who had been housed in a badly damaged primary school.
The facility, which has been designated an official government reception centre, stood in a pool of putrid water – and the roofs were clearly leaking.
More importantly perhaps, everyone was hungry. I spoke to one evacuee called Dianor Jane.
“We are starving here and we don’t even have plastic to keep us dry, our homes are already destroyed, everything is gone.”
In classroom number three we found a group of children who were busy scraping the bottom of cooking pots with their spoons.
Their parents cannot afford to buy them porridge and the government has not brought any supplies for days.
However, the residents of the Combatants Primary School need to be fed.
I asked a man called Bisulu Findine whether they had received any donations.
“We haven’t had anything, we haven’t had anything, a bit of porridge. Blankets? No blankets – nothing.”
As we got back onto the highway we were told that the residents of one village, called Mobeira, had relocated themselves under a bridge and we found them about a kilometre down the road.
Their cooking pots were also empty and they sourced their drinking from a pool of dirty water.
I asked them why they did not travel into Beira, where several high-schools are providing shelter – and at least one meal a day – to those made homeless by the storms.
However, a woman called Celeste Mera told me that the local government secretary would not let them travel.
“You have to have permission to go to the city, but they have told us we have to stay here and wait … all this time.”
“Are you telling me you need permission from the local secretary to go and get food?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said.
Obedience is obligatory in this top-down, centrally-controlled country – a nation has been ruled by the same political party since independence in 1975.
The bridge is constructed over a train line which links the region to the nation’s capital, Maputo and we watched as the people of Mobeira quickly scooped up their things when a 30-car goods train sped through their campsite.
Back in the car, we continued inland as the floodwaters closed in on highway six.
From the roadside, I could see hundreds of people knee-deep in water, trying to catch themselves some food with bamboo poles and do-it-yourself hooks.
We were forced to stop at the point where the cyclone had knocked out the highway although we soon discovered that a team of Chinese engineers had been working on a temporary fix.
A large pile of rocks topped with a black, stubbly coating had been laid down through a giant pool of floodwater and we witnessed the first convoy of lorries begin to make their way across.
This is a big deal because you can put many more tents, water purification kits and emergency rations in a lorry than a chopper.
Now they have the means, the authorities, along with the aid agencies, need to act because the people of Mozambique can wait no longer.