Aid workers in Mozambique face logistics nightmare

A lone figure strolls past a destroyed settlement in cyclone-devastated Mozambique.

With roads, railways and bridges literally washed away following the devastation caused by Cyclone Idai, aid workers are facing a logistics nightmare.

Most cargo was being brought in by air at present, said Hervé Verhoosel, World Food Programme (WFP) spokesman.

This in itself is problematic as airfields and landing strips are also under water.

“Aid has to be unloaded by hand, box by box,” said Verhoosel.

In Mozambique alone the agency is seeking $121 million to help 1.7 million people over the next three months. Power will not be restored for several weeks and most of the road network no longer exists.

In Zimbabwe, the agency said another $5 million was needed immediately and some $10 million for Malawi.

These figures, however, only address the immediate food and medical needs in the countries affected.

Verhoosel said a WFP airplane had reached the Mozambican port of Beira soon after the disaster happened last week, but in extremely difficult conditions. “That was probably the first cargo plane to land,” he said. “The food from that cargo plane is not yet fully distributed. The problem that we have is more the access…because most of the people are on rooftops or in a place that we cannot access by road.”

He said inland the problem was that there was water everywhere.

“At the airport people had to unload food by hand and then box by box.”
Mike Fitzmaurice of Fesarta advised trucking operators to stay abreast of any developments within countries before sending out trucks out.

“We have not had any calls for assistance as yet, but it is clear from the massive destruction that infrastructure in certain areas has been completely washed away.”

He said the area of Beira was completely inaccessible to transporters with the port completely cut off at present.

He said in both Zimbabwe and Zambia there was concern over fuel and food shortages following the damage to Beira and its port.

The Beira to Zimbabwe and Zambia corridors were lifelines for food, fuel and cargo in the region, but would now be closed indefinitely.

He said it could take as much as six months before it was once again operational.

“South Africa is also not transporting fuel at the moment because of the issues around Eskom - and with no fuel moving from Beira to Zambia they will now have to bring it in from Dar es Salaam.”.

He said the impact was already evident, with nothing moving through the Forbes border post between Zimbabwe and Mozambique. The route from this border post up to Nyamapanda in Zimbabwe and then on to Malawi has also been damaged.

“The North South corridor is accessible but there are some parts that have been damaged,” he said.

Most of Southern Malawi had been washed away and damage in Zimbabwe was also extensive.

In Mozambique a 50km wide inland ocean now existed where there were once farms and villages.

“The situation is extremely fluid and has to be assessed day by day,” said Fitzmaurice.

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