Cyclone Kenneth: UNHCR team witnesses destruction, needs in immediate aftermath
This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Charlie Yaxley – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
In Mozambique, a UNHCR team arrived in the north-eastern town of Pemba on Saturday, a day after the surrounding region was hit by Cyclone Kenneth, one of the strongest storms recorded in mainland Africa. Although the area is less populated than other parts of Mozambique, the damage and flooding along its path has been extensive. Currently 38 people are reported dead and more than 160,000 others have been directly affected.
Staff of UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, witnessed the immediate aftermath first-hand on Sunday. Several areas of Pemba city were completely flooded. In the most deprived areas, houses had collapsed and flash floods left mud and trash all over the streets – especially in the lower part of the city, close to the sea.
Our teams managed to visit sites sheltering survivors of the cyclone, including schools. Although assistance is under way, people need proper shelter, food, and an adequate water supply.
Children are not at present going to school. And many families have lost all their property – including plantations and livestock needed to make a living. People are eager to return home, but need comprehensive help.
In a public school visited by a UNHCR team, some 600 people were sheltering. People there were worried about the capacity of the place to host more victims of the cyclone. Community leaders said they urgently needed food and utensils, such as plates, pans, forks, spoons and knifes. Women also asked for hygiene kits.
Moving around the streets in Pemba, it is clear that a number of houses are damaged and will need repairing. Communities are organizing themselves to clean up streets and remove the sand and muck brought by the storms. Despair is evident.
As bad weather conditions still persist, access to the most remote places remains difficult. There are reports of people who are completely isolated and in need of rescue. Other humanitarian agencies are starting to airlift food and medicines to these places, but not yet on a regular basis.
UNHCR is planning to send emergency family tents and core relief items to Pemba from Beira, where other emergency teams are still responding to the survivors of Cyclone Idai.
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