Tearfund’s partner in Mozambique is working on trauma intervention and other strategies to help people deal with the distress caused by cyclones, and build their resilience in the face of a changing climate. It’s a sobering reminder of the emotional toll that climate change can take.
One of the worst tropical cyclones on record to affect Africa, Cyclone Idai, hit Beira, Mozambique in March 2019. It wreaked havoc in the communities where Tearfund’s partner Oasis Mozambique had been working for several years. Cyclonic winds ripped roofs from houses. Widespread flooding resulted in further damage and contaminated water, threatening the health of survivors.
Then, in January 2021, the same region was pummelled by Tropical Cyclone Eloise.
A 2021 report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projects that southern Africa is likely to experience more tropical storms as a result of climate change.1
Armando Licoze, Oasis’ Executive Director, says that cyclones take a serious emotional toll on local people, on top of the obvious economic and health impacts.
“The major negative impact on communities is mental,” he says. He can see in his own staff an anxiety about future cyclones. “They look up in the sky if there’s a bit of a change and they say, ‘Oh, we might have a cyclone, or something bad is going to happen to us’ … there’s that fear.”
The economic impact on the most vulnerable is particularly severe. “If we think about someone who is struggling to meet their basic needs of food and shelter, then it gets really hard in people’s lives,” he says.
Part of Oasis’ standard program work is improving people’s awareness of the health and hygiene measures they can take to reduce their chance of getting sick from water-borne diseases. But cyclones undo this important work, and increase people’s exposure to disease.
“Suddenly they are flooded and all the messages that we taught them get really compromised and undermined, because at those times people can’t have access to treated water,” Armando says.
He explains that Oasis is learning to adjust and adapt to the reality of climate change. For example, it runs trauma therapy sessions to help people in the community deal with the distress caused by cyclones.
“These are some of the opportunities we see that we can build on, especially trauma intervention and helping people to become more resilient.”
1. "Insights for African countries from the latest climate change projections", Victor Ongoma, https://theconversation.com/insights-for-african-countries-from-the-latest-climate-change-projections-165944