No one really knew the extent of the damage
No more than 24 hours had passed since Tropical Cyclone Idai tore through Beira, Mozambique’s fourth largest city, and the WFP-led Logistics Cluster had a team of two on the ground ready to assess the situation.
Flying into the country’s capital Maputo, neither knew exactly what to expect, but within a couple of short days, information quickly started unravelling: damage to logistics infrastructure was widespread; regular transport routes had become impassable; entire communities were cut-off; the number of people impacted was quickly climbing to almost two million; and the need for coordination was crucial.
As she finishes up her third and final week with the Logistics Cluster in Beira, we chat with Information Management Officer, Erika, on what it was like arriving in Mozambique and being part of the cluster’s first wave team following the strongest cyclone to hit Mozambique in over a decade.
How was your first 48 hours?
At the start information was difficult to attain and constantly changing. No one really knew the extent of the damage, there was little information about how far impact had spread and the number of people affected.
We landed in Maputo and soon hit the road as part of an inter-agency convoy travelling to Beira, one of the hardest hit areas. 17 hours after starting the road trip to Beira we arrived to Inchope, where we were told that the road to Beira was washed out in Nhamatanda. We had to go back to Maputo and try again. Two days later, I was on a plane to Beira.
What was it like arriving at Beira airport?
It was overwhelming. The Emergency Operations Centre was set up at the airport. It was jam-packed, noisy, humid. Humanitarians, journalists, and members of the South African search-and-rescue teams were finding whatever space they could across tables and the floor. Every hour, we were notified by the search-and-rescue teams of isolated communities that could only be reached by air.
You were the Logistics Cluster’s first focal point in Beira. Talks us through that experience.
I never quite knew the magnetism of the Logistics Cluster t-shirt until I arrived at the Emergency Operations Centre. On my first day, I think I was approached by over 50 humanitarians. Partners recognise us, and it was clear there was an urgent need for coordination, IM and common services to ensure relief cargo was reaching those in need efficiently and quick.
What has working on the Mozambique response taught you?
My first few hours really illustrated just how important the work of the Logistics Cluster is and how recognised it is by the humanitarian community.
During these past weeks, I felt proud of being part of the Logistics Cluster team. The learning curve was incredibly steep, but it was totally worth it.
The Logistics Cluster plays a critical role in collecting and sharing relevant information to support partners in their activities, but we were also relying on them for information to feed into our IM documents.