Pledging ongoing UN support during visit to cyclone-hit areas, Guterres praises resilience of Mozambicans

UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe In Mozambique, Secretary-General António Guterres heard reports from families in the Mandruzi camp, 40 km from Beira, resettlement where more than 375 people live.

This article is brought to you in association with the United Nations.


Determined children learning in classes without roofs, resilient women farming without tools or much land, and grateful people who survived a cyclone that destroyed their livelihoods; on his final day in Mozambique, UN chief António Guterres witnessed first-hand the inner strength and resilience of the storm-ravaged country’s people.

Mr. Guterres is in Mozambique to take stock of the recovery efforts in areas impacted by devastating cyclones Idai and Kenneth, which hit just a few weeks apart in March and April 2019.

Capping an emotional two-day visit, during which the Secretary-General commented repeatedly on the resilience of the Mozambican people, a remarkable thing happened early on Friday during his visit to areas affected by Cyclone Idai.

‘You’re going to have a beautiful school’

When Mr. Guterres asked a class of students: “How many of you have had your homes destroyed by the cyclone?”, almost every little hand was raised in the crowded classroom, which was baking under the hot sun because much of the roof ripped off by winds of 195-kilometer per hours when the cyclone hit.

The school, Escola 25 de Junho, is in Mozambique’s second-largest city, Beira, where 90 per cent of all infrastructure was damaged during Idai on March 14 and 15. Every day now, as people struggle to recover and rebuild, the school hosts close to five thousand children, divided into three shifts, in classes of up to 90 students.

The UN Secretary-General took a tour of the school, led by its Principal Frederico Francisco. Going from class to class, the Principal introduced Mr. Guterres and remind the children of “the very special visit” that they had talked about, adding that the UN chief “had come from very far because he heard about what happened here.”

When Mr. Francisco led the UN chief to a makeshift class being held in the middle of a patio, Mr Guterres promised that “You’re going to have a beautiful school.”

In another class, he urged the children to “keep studying, learn your subjects well, so that you can become engineers and doctors.”

To another class, the UN chief explained what the UN stands for. “It’s a place where all the countries get together to try to solve the problems of the world. Sometimes they are able to do so, sometimes they are not”, he said.

Among the five pavilions in the school, only one structure had not been damaged by the cyclone and remained solid. It opened in February this year, just before the disaster. It was built with the support of UN-Habitat as an example of how buildings could be made resistant to extreme climate events.

“That’s a great example of a culture of resilience, of how things can resist when they are built the right way”, Mr. Guterres observed. Across Mozambique, the same UN-Habitat initiative has supported the construction of three thousand resilient classrooms.

Guterres pledges UN support to persons with disabilities

It was inside one of these UN-Habitat-sponsored classes that the Secretary-General met with a group of persons with disabilities and one person with albinism, as well as some of the most vulnerable people affected by the disaster.

Forty-four-year-old Orlando Machambissa told the UN chief that “people with disabilities suffered twice more” than the rest of the population.  Mr. Machambissa has albinism and is losing his eyesight.

He said that the night the cyclone hit was “a night that is impossible to forget”, adding that some people “had the courage to get their things that were being blown away by the wind, but the visually impaired could not see where the things were going.”

Mr. Guterres also met 37-year-old Antónia Piripiri, a district coordinator for the Forum of Mozambican Associations of Persons with Disabilities (FAMOD). Ms. Piripiri has a hearing disability and, through an interpreter, explained that, in a country where most people get their news by the radio, people like her “had a lack of information” during the emergency.

“It happened suddenly, without any warning, and they went out and saw all the houses falling”, she said.

Mr. Guterres said, “the United Nations has the obligation to do everything to help, especially people who are more vulnerable, who suffered the most with this tragedy.”

Recovering Mozambicans ‘ready to build their future’

A half-hour drive from Beira, Mr.  Guterres visited the Mandruzi Camp, where 480 families have been temporarily resettled. They have been given plots of land by the government, but still live in tents provided by the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and other humanitarian partners.

At the Mandruzi Camp, the Secretary-General was warmly welcomed at a UNICEF-supported school with chants of Titio Guterres, or “Uncle Guterres”. The UN chief shared a light moment with a class of first graders when he tested them on how well they knew their numbers – up to four.

Mr. Guterres then took a quick tour of the camp, meeting several families. He talked with residents, including two women and a young boy, about life in the camp. A few times, he asked if they liked their new place. “Yes,” he heard every time, because they felt safer.

At a media event later in the day, the Secretary-General spoke about the challenges of resettlement in Mozambique. All temporary shelter provisions have ended in the country, and the 46 thousand people still living in camps are not going back to their old neighborhoods and villages.

“I am sure that investment will be progressively made, and we will support this investment in education and health and other things necessary for the well-being of these populations”, he told journalists.

The Secretary-General lauded the resilience and determination of the Mozambican people.  “I was already impressed with what I saw. What I saw was the great courage and determination of those people. I saw people already sowing and planting. They still don’t have a house, but they are already sowing, they are already planting. They already want to build their future.”

We need the tools to go back to making a living’

Before leaving Beira, an exception was made at a safe space for children and women, where traditionally men are not allowed, and the residents welcomed the Secretary-General. Outside the tent donated by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), he placed his chair at the door, respecting the sanctity of the space.

Mr. Guterres heard some concerns from the women, about how far away the school was for the older children; that they still lacked materials to start building houses; how difficult it is to raise children as a single mother.

But mostly he heard how they don’t want to be dependent on help.

“We just need the tools necessary to go back and make a living”, one woman said, adding that some of them were seamstresses or farmers, and that others would like to learn how to read and write, or how to make baskets and pottery that they could sell.

“We want to feel like we are making a living with our own hands.”

After leaving the camp, Mr. Guterres met with the humanitarian leadership team in Mozambique, and received an update on the emergency. He also visited the UN World Food Programme (WFP) warehouse, were he met more than 100 humanitarian workers involved in the response.

The UN chief made special note of the Mozambican workers, saying he knew that some of them “had been victims, but have kept on working to help others.”

The Secretary-General also visited a system of channels, dams and retention basins that were built with the support of a group of partners, including the World Bank. This investment prevented greater damage during the cyclone. This infrastructure is now being expanded.

At the city Mayor’s office, Mr. Guterres went up to the roof to get a 360-degree view of the damage.

He saw a tower in the corner of the building and decided to climb it. One old iron ladder after another until he was perched atop of the building, on a small round platform, looking North, where cyclone Kenneth hit six weeks after Idai, affecting 400 thousand people, and looking west, to the areas of Buzi and Dondo, where most of the 648 killed during the disaster lost their lives.

The UN Secretary-General leaves Mozambique with the resilience, determination, and independence of the people forever imprinted on heart.

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Almost all businesses expect to face a crisis. And how they deal with them really counts

Public climate finance to developing countries is rising

New study shows close link between GVCs participation and economic development

Reduce costs, save lives: how healthcare data can help emerging economies

European Youth Forum and youngest MEPs call on President Juncker to keep his promise to Europe’s youth

AI-powered automation will have an ethnic bias

Main results of EU-Japan summit: Tokyo, 17/07/2018

What changes in the EU as from today

Commission issues guidance on the participation of third country bidders in the EU procurement market

Yanukovych attempts a violent and deadly cleansing of Kiev’s center

France is about to start giving free breakfasts to disadvantaged schoolchildren

‘Proving our worth through action’: 5 things Guterres wants the UN to focus on in 2019

Militias force nearly 2,000 to leave Libyan capital’s largest shelter for internally-displaced: UNHCR

UN highlights need to solve growing burden of forcibly displaced Africans

A skills gap is jeopardizing efforts to end energy poverty

Snowden is the “EU nomination” for this year’s Oscars

How young people are shaping the future of sustainable fashion

Brexit: European Commission publishes Communication on preparing for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU

A Sting Exclusive: “The Digital Economy and Industry are no longer opposing terms”, Commissioner Oettinger underlines live from European Business Summit 2015

Future of EU farming: MEPs push for modern common policy with fair funding

This is how much people would pay to use some of the world’s most popular apps

A Sting Exclusive: “Delivering on the Environmental Dimension of the new Sustainable Development Agenda”, Ulf Björnholm underscores from UNEP Brussels

Is ECB helping Germany to buy cheaply the rest of Europe?

Internet Forum: Prioritize technologies most needed for sustainable development

Bahamas: ‘Clock is ticking’ to help those who lost everything in Hurricane Dorian, says UN

Further reforms will promote a stronger and more inclusive Hungarian economy

Our indispensable problem: the paradox of modern plastics

DR Congo: Electoral process advancing despite threat of armed groups, UN envoy tells Security Council

Donor countries set international standard for preventing sexual exploitation, abuse, and harassment in development sector

European Commission and European Investment Fund launch €75 million BlueInvest Fund

Chronic illnesses: UN stands up to stop 41 million avoidable deaths per year

Food safety: Enhancing consumer trust in EU risk assessment and authorisation

Fair Taxation: EU updates list of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions

UN chief hears ‘heartbreaking accounts’ of suffering from Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh; urges international community to ‘step up support’

Why the fight against nature loss should be a business priority

UN calls for funds to ease ‘deteriorating’ humanitarian situation in Gaza and West Bank

These rules could save humanity from the threat of rogue AI

Sudan: ‘Exercise utmost restraint’ urges Guterres as thousands march in Khartoum, sparking deadly clashes

There is no greater sorrow on earth than the loss of one’s native land

UN chief hails ‘positive developments’ towards ending political crisis in Bolivia

ILO welcomes new UNDP report that places decent work at the heart of sustainable development

Shaping the Conference on the Future of Europe

‘Jerusalem is not for sale’ Palestinian President Abbas tells world leaders at UN Assembly

ZTE @ MWC14: ZTE excels in all areas at this year’s Mobile World Congress

Cohesion Policy: EU invests €880 million to improve Poland’s railway system

Multilateralism more vital than ever, as World War centenary looms: Security Council

The ‘yellow vests’ undermined Macron in France and the EU

Idai disaster: Stranded victims still need rescue from heavy rains as UN scales up response

Security Union: political agreement on strengthened Schengen Information System

Girls groomed for suicide missions fight back against the extremists of Lake Chad

EU to host international donors’ conference for Albania to help with reconstruction after earthquake

Human Rights breaches in Russia, Afghanistan and Burkina Faso

Investment, not debt, can kick-start an entrepreneurial Europe

Technology is a force for peace and prosperity. Don’t let its challenges obscure this

Countries must make teaching profession more financially and intellectually attractive

Will AI make the gender gap in the workplace harder to close?

Online radio and news broadcasts: Parliament and Council reach deal

Look to cities, not nation-states, to solve our biggest challenges

‘Our goal is to democratize the air.’ How aerial transportation will shape cities of the future

Ebola outbreak in DR Congo declared over, now let’s tackle other health challenges: WHO chief

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s