Issa Ebombolo did not expect the level of malnutrition he encountered among people displaced by Cyclone Idai. Upon arriving in Malawi — where he helped distribute a Mennonite Central Committee shipment of food and relief supplies to survivors of the tropical storm, which made landfall March 15 — he was taken aback by the dire need for food aid.
“The picture I had in mind was of people who would have some food and just need supplements,” said Ebombolo, MCC’s peacebuilding coordinator for Zambia and Malawi. “I discovered they had nothing.”
Many of the people Ebombolo visited are small-scale farmers. Flooding wiped out their crops and forced their displacement to higher ground. Some had been forced to beg for food in nearby towns.
“The food relief MCC provided helped feed households for one month,” he said, adding that an additional 30 days of aid would be provided later in May. “It will make a big difference because even the children’s bodies were being transformed, changed completely, by malnutrition.”
Bankuwiha John, a pastor serving people displaced by Cyclone Idai, thanked MCC.
“Thank you to the people who contributed,” he said. “They have accepted to live life for the sake of others.”
Poor hit the hardest
In the days after Idai made landfall, MCC and Brethren in Christ churches committed to providing food assistance to more than 400 Malawian families and also adjusted a previously planned shipment of humanitarian supplies — including hygiene, school and relief kits, blankets, soap and canned meat — so it could be distributed to people affected by the cyclone.
Additionally, MCC has provided food assistance to more than 1,500 households in Mozambique affected by the cyclone.
“There has been a lot of destruction,” said James Alty, MCC area director for southern Africa with his wife, Joan. “Very few people escaped some impact of the cyclone because power was affected, water was affected and the basic infrastructure was significantly damaged.
“Most homes in Beira [where the storm made landfall in Mozambique], had some sort of damage, and of course it was the lower-income folks whose homes were less structurally sound who bore the brunt of it.”
MCC has provided food assistance in Mozambique to more than 2,000 families in partnership with the Association of Assistance for Orphaned Children, the BIC and the Christian Council for Mozambique.