Dear Sisters and Friends,
I am writing this letter from Quelimane where I have come for a few brief days to visit the sisters and their families in this situation of sadness and desolation in which all the people of Zambezia find themselves.
I do not know if I will be able to reconcile my thoughts to be able to succinctly share the suffering that all these people are going through.
I think you must have followed the passage of Cyclone Freddy through Mozambique and Malawi, where it left a trail of destruction that is difficult to describe. It stayed for four intense days, after three “new arrivals” in Mozambique.
Because of its duration and the fury of the waters and winds that exceeded 200 km/hour with strong thunderstorms, no one remembers so much devastation, although we are well accustomed to so many natural calamities. We do not know when so many damages and deaths were caused! Some died, as I said, swept away by the waters, others electrocuted by fallen high voltage pylons, others under the walls of houses or collapsed walls.
I cannot help but share that the two communities of our Sisters, as well as our Literacy Center in the Chirangano neighborhood where we live, one of the neighborhoods hardest hit by the cyclone due to the extreme poverty of its population, were also well hit by the cyclone.
The roofs of the sisters’ residences, built with zinc sheets, were all blown away by the wind, as well as the warehouses, soaking the sacks of rice that the sisters had stored for almost a year of survival; the Chirangano Social Center was also left with the roof destroyed, the computers full of water and mud, the books, what a quantity of study books were lost! Several families of our neighborhood took refuge in the rooms that were in better conditions, when their houses were “swallowed” by the mud and tree trunks and garbage that came from everywhere in the floods.
The families of our sisters suffered no less. On Sunday we found one of the children trying to make use of a piece of wall, with broken material scattered on the ground, to improvise a shelter to live in.
But the rains have passed, as well as the winds, and life remains to be rebuilt…. It is true that people are resilient, and resilience is everywhere.
This weekend, when the sisters went around the neighborhoods to visit the families of our sisters in Zambezia and other more affected families, we saw life in the most uninhabitable areas, wanting to be stronger than the prevailing destruction. Adults and young people on top of still very wet walls, nailing some of the few zinc sheets they managed to recover (it looked as if someone had rolled them up as if they were rolls of paper), women picking up pieces of scattered local material to try to “mend” their little house. But the roads are still impassable, full of electrical wires on the ground, sewage mixed with water from the small wells, where women washed their children’s clothes and collected water for the family’s use, water and….what water, my God!
We know that the media often bombard us with alarming news that after a day or two are no longer topical…
But now life has to start again and right here, in the heart of the capital, Quelimane, we have no drinking water, not even for sale at the market; after almost a week, electricity has arrived intermittently; where and when will the vast majority of these people be able to find the most essential means to build their little houses, poor indeed, but where they can shelter with their children?
We cannot say that the government is insensitive, and we well understand that it is not easy to respond to the cries of so many children who cry out for shelter and bread, during endless calamities that cover several provinces, as Freddy has wreaked havoc in many of them. In Maputo, how much I would want to share with you from urban districts like Mahotas, where we live.
Here in Quelimane, the City Council has hired ten large trucks that go around the city removing fallen trees and all kinds of garbage, but…. the garbage doesn’t stop! Malaria, skin diseases, filariasis and, above all, cholera are killing, there are no possible means to combat a misfortune of such great dimensions.
Dear Sisters and Friends, the letter that I wanted to be short, because we are all saturated with words, is now long. Forgive me, I trust in your understanding.
We appeal to your solidarity. It is said, and we have seen it so many times, “That, with God, a little is a lot and it works miracles”. Many of you have already supported our mission in various ways. Forgive us if we come to appeal, once again, to your good and sensitive hearts. What each of you can contribute will be a chance of life for these brothers and sisters who are once again impoverished and victims of this natural disaster.
In their name and in ours, thank you from the bottom of our hearts!
Maria Inocência A. Costa
Missionary Dominican Sister of the Rosary