How small communities are responding to big weather

How small communities are responding to big weather

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Mossuril, a district on the north coast of Mozambique, is no stranger to the devastation that comes with cyclones, heavy rains, and strong winds.  


Most years, storms wreak havoc on this coastal community, damaging roads, bridges and homes, many of which are made of nothing more than woven palm and thatch. Lives are lost and families made homeless.  


But the introduction of an early warning system by CARE and the Mozambican National Institute of Disaster Management (INGC), is helping residents prepare and respond before the weather hits. Instructions are issued via megaphone to warn residents a storm is approaching, advising farmers not to go to the fields and the district’s many fishers not to take their small boats to the sea. Flags are hoisted ensuring all residents are aware of the need to prepare. 


Risk and Disaster Management committees made up of local residents from across Mossuril have been trained by CARE on emergency evacuation and the identification of safe places for shelter, as well as helping communities prepare for storms and protecting their livelihoods. Each group is equipped with life-saving items including life jackets, ropes and first aid kits. 


“I learned how to use a megaphone to alert families to leave their homes and look for safe areas,” says Ramadane Ali, who attended a training.  


Last year, CARE and the INGC introduced early warning systems in three districts: Mossuril, Nacala-a-Velha and Memba. The system includes three alert levels: blue is issued if flooding is anticipated within 48 hours; yellow indicates flooding is imminent and is issued within 24 hours; and, red which warns residents that flooding will take place within six hours. A red alert indicates that residents should seek shelter in safe places such as schools or hospitals, already identified by their local committees. The levels are determined by the INGC and the message passed on to Risk and Disaster Management committees via text. In each community, CARE has provided cell phones to at least 50 members of Risk and Disaster Management committees to ensure the messages are received.  


Anifa Ibraímo is the member of her local Risk and Disaster Management committee tasked with identifying the safest places in her community for residents to seek shelter in an emergency situation.  


“People need to know where they should go and how they should proceed at the time of emergency,” she says. “During training, we identified evacuation sites with committee members and local leadership.” 


Local committee members also advise communities on ways to reduce the risk of damage when disaster strikes. Building houses with clay bricks, for instance, means homes are better able withstand strong winds. 


“In the past when we built, we would place only wooden stakes and clay, and when it rained heavily, our houses would be destroyed immediately,” Levane João says. “But now we use burned blocks, and reinforce the house with wooden stakes.”  


This year, when heavy rains and strong winds hit Mossuril, Nacala-a-Velha and Memba districts, communities were prepared. Committees sprang into action, initiating the early warning system and alerting residents of approaching storms.  


“Before, when it rained we would stay at home, thinking that the rain would not destroy our homes but now when I heard the megaphone warning of the change in the weather I took my nephews, documents, clothes and food before it started raining,” Telvina Mussá says. “We took shelter in the mosque, which we were advised was the safest place, so the children's school documents and their uniforms did not get ruined.”   


Mozambique is one of the countries in the world most vulnerable to cyclones and storms. But for the people of Mossuril, CARE’s early warning system has brought peace of mind. 


“Before, we did not sleep at night during the rainy season fearing how and when the rain would come to devastate everything and everyone,” Amina Essaica says. “But now we believe we will hear the megaphone sound before the rains and we will have time to save our lives and our goods.”

Fátima Abibo’s family has benefitted from CARE’s early warning system. CREDIT: Aderito Bie/CARE