United Nations, Jul 13 : Determined children learning in classes without roofs, resilient women farming without tools, 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.
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 hour 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. 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 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 on the radio, people like her “had a lack of information” during the emergency. (UNI)