After the Cyclone....
Following the devastation of the cyclone, many houses were reduced to rubble (1) and hundreds more lost walls or roofs. Broken down houses left occupants at risk of theft, violence, and even malaria where families were divided desperate for safer accommodation, so mosquito nets could no longer be shared.
So we rebuilt 2 houses completely—one for a granny keeping abandoned children and another for a mother and daughter with her family, who had both lost their own homes, so we provided them semi-detached accommodation (2).
Alongside, we rebuilt walls for 35 homes during the following month in 11 villages (3 & 4), and later added more.
Collapsed toilets were a huge challenge, Without these facilities villagers’ only alternative was using open fields, with all the associated health risks and lack of dignity. So we built 100 latrines for families too frail to provide their own replacement (5 & 6). These may look insubstantial, but they are life changing. Inside each shelter is a deep (3m) hand-dug pit covered with a strong floor, surrounded by a bamboo-framed, plastic-lined structure for privacy.
We also built 2 sturdy brick public toilets centrally, next to Community Centres we’d built earlier, where the land was particularly vulnerable to flooding in the future (7). Over 100 people would make use of each of these, including all the children at the Nursery schools housed in the Centres.
The cyclone had decimated water pipelines, leaving heavy reliance on borehole pumps, many of which had broken down through over-use and poor maintenance—right in the middle of the worst cholera crisis in living memory! Within weeks of the storms, in partnership with Wilmslow Wells for Africa, we repaired 7 pumps, restoring safe local water to 889 households, almost 4,000 people (8).
Infrastructure was broken, and as the authorities tried for weeks to restore electricity, bridges were down interrupting access and isolating whole villages. One bridge—formally an insignificant, hardly noticed part of a busy route from tarmac road to the main secondary school, water supply, market and health facilities—became a highly dangerous crossing (9). After the water receded we demolished what was left (10), put in strong foundations, rebuilt it a metre higher and several mtrs longer with the villagers working with us providing all the rocks to fill the huge chasms either side, gouged out by the water torrents (11). Hundreds of local people and school children are relieved, appreciative—and safe!
But hunger haunts the rural areas, and so many had lost food in the floods, and crops in the field just before harvest. People were hungry! In many areas, the landscape had changed. Houses had gone (12) and once-fertile fields had been rendered uncultivatable, covered in rocks and poor soil from the mountain, disastrous in an impoverished agricultural society.
So, despite road damage, we managed to locate and buy maize from Mozambique (13), to reduce stress on our local area’s production. 33,000 kgs were winnowed (14) by hand, weighed and stored in special grain bags (15) that prevent weevil infestation without chemicals. This will be stored till Christmas when the unrelenting “hunger period” really kicks in, and the bases for 125,000 meals will be distributed to about 500 families at intervals till the next harvest.
But that’s months away and we urgently needed to get crops in the ground and food on the table ASAP. We set up 3 agri-projects. The first, irrigation veg, encouraged, trained and equipped dozens of villagers to grow crops outside the usual short season by providing watering cans, seeds and chemicals to produce their own food (16). The second supplied sweet potato vines to hundreds of families – potatoes could be harvested in 3 months, the leaves are edible as a nutritious green vegetable and the rampant vines will be replanted for even more continued growth (17). Finally, for those less able to dig, we provided chickens—2 hens and a cockerel for each family unit (18). This is a “pass-on” project. Once the birds produce offspring, a cockerel chick and 2 young hens are passed to another vulnerable family, and this pattern is repeated enabling many to develop their own flocks for food and income.
All three of these projects will provide not only eggs, meat or veg quickly, but also valuable income as surplus is sold, empowering villagers to be able to buy other necessities and improve their lives themselves. Thousands will benefit from these combined projects.
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