“People are dying here”: Bishop in Mozambique on Cholera, Hunger Owing to Lengthy Cyclone

Credit: ACN

Hundreds of thousands of people affected by Tropical Cyclone Freddy in Southern Africa are facing hunger and starvation, the Catholic Bishop of Quelimane Diocese in Mozambique has said, noting that many in his Episcopal See are already dying of cholera amid other devastating effects of the cyclone.

In an interview with the Catholic pontifical and charity foundation, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Bishop Hilário da Cruz Massinga who serves one of the areas most affected by the rains and strong winds said that there being almost no basic sanitation is aggravating the health situation of the cyclone victims. 

“People are dying here,” Bishop Massinga says in the Monday, March 20 ACN report.

“People are starving,” the Catholic Bishop says, and stresses, “They are really starving! And we have an additional problem which is cholera. People are dying here.”

Tropical Cyclone Freddy has reportedly killed more than 500 people in Malawi, Mozambique, and Madagascar since it first made landfall in Africa in late February.


The Cyclone reportedly made landfall in Inhambane Province in Southern Mozambique on February 24. 

In the two weeks prior to its arrival, Southern and Central Mozambique had experienced rainfall and flooding, which destroyed road infrastructure, crops, housing, and public buildings like schools and health facilities.

ACN reports that a week after the passage of Cyclone Freddy through Mozambique, the trail of destruction is immense and that at least 67 people have died, 50,000 have been displaced and more than 350,000 have been affected. 

These numbers, the charity foundation notes, are gigantic in view of the lack of resources available to respond to all the most urgent situations. 

The Cyclone also left a trail of destruction in the Mozambican Provinces of Niassa, Sofala, Manica and Tete. 

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The main road in the country, for example, was cut off in Quelimane, making it difficult for emergency aid to get there, and at least seven bridges were destroyed.

In the interview with ACN, Bishop Massinga describes “a dramatic scenario” with people dying of hunger and cholera, and houses and churches left without roofs.

“Naturally, Caritas went out to meet the people with the few kilos of food that it had managed to collect, but that is nothing for the many people who live in our diocese,” explains the Catholic Bishop, adding that the Catholic Church has been asking for help, but the situation is very difficult indeed. 

The member of the Order of Friars Minor (OFM) says that while the priority is to feed those who have lost everything they had, the distribution of mosquito nets is also essential to prevent, as much as possible, the spread of cholera. 

“Practically all the houses have lost their ceilings. Even if you try to replace some sheet metal that's lying around, it's not the same. The houses are still damaged,” Bishop Massinga says, and adds, “We also hope to get some support so that we can have mosquito nets. Because even without a roof, when you have a mosquito net, at least it delays the effect of cholera.”


He describes the devastation caused by the strong wind, saying, “All our churches, all our houses, residences, along with the people's houses are without roofs right now. We are very disturbed by this.”

The Bishop who has been at the helm of Quelimane Diocese since March 2008 following his transfer from Mozambique’s Lichinga Diocese says that while the leaders of the Diocese have been asking for help to support victims of the cyclone, there are parishes that are inaccessible at the moment.

Highlighting the seriousness of the cholera threat, the Catholic Bishop says, “In some neighborhoods, the deaths are daily and that worries us. People are dying of cholera and no one says anything...but that's a lot of people.”

In his appeal to ACN and the entire international community to support the victims of Cyclone Freddy, Bishop Massinga says, “We would like to have support for the rehabilitation of homes and churches, which is the vocation of ACN, but the urgency is food because our people are in bad shape, people are really going hungry.”

Bishop Diamantino Guapo Antunes of Tete Diocese in Mozambique, also spoke to ACN, noting that cyclones, which normally occurred six or seven years apart, are now more and more frequent due to the climate changes that are taking place all over the planet, and that they accentuate the already deep poverty in which the Southern African nation finds itself.

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“A tropical storm like this one, and especially the floods, bring the country to its knees,” Bishop Diamantino said.

The member of the Consolata Missionaries added, “It's the infrastructure, bridges, roads cut, the electric and telephone network system is very fragile, they can't stand it, and then there are no alternatives because the roads are those and the country is split in two, it only takes one bridge collapsing on a national road that connects the south to the north, for the country to be split in two.”

Cyclone Freddy comes just about a year after tropical storm Ana hit Central and Northern Mozambique causing about two dozen deaths and affecting thousands of people.

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.