“My children are still scared. They don’t want to go back home”

- A mother narrates Cyclone Kenneth ordeal - By Joseph Scott, Mozambique

Zena Momade e moved into a temporary shelter after Cyclone Kenneth destroyed her house. (Joseph Scott/CARE)

The day before Cyclone Kenneth hit Pemba district in Mozambique, Zena Momade and his family crowded around had crowded around the radio to get information on the impending disaster.

According to Zena, who lives in Chibwabwari- an area along the Pemba coastline, many in her community were all convinced that information about the cyclone Kenneth was not true. And they can be forgiven for having not taken the news seriously. This was the first time in modern history for Mozambique to experience two cyclones in one season.

“It was unthinkable to ever imagine that a cyclone would hit our area,” she says. “But we found out the truth in a hard way.”

Zena says on Wednesday, a day before the cyclone made landfall, the weather was fine. The kids were playing on the beaches that span the length of the coastline and fishermen were busy hauling their catch for the day.

Not a myth anymore

Things started changing the next day. Ghastly winds attacked the coastline and a drizzle that soon developed into thunderstorms warned them that the news about the cyclone was real.

“The sky became very dark and everyone knew that the cyclone we heard on the radio was here. All of a sudden, we had heavy downpours and strong winds that lifted large waves in the ocean. It was a scary sight,” says Zena.

“The waves were like a giant fish swallowing anything on its path. All the boats at the shore were washed away. In no time, the place was heavily flooded, and all houses close to the shoreline were also washed away,” she recalls.

Zena, a mother of three says she will never forget the look on the face of her children during the storm. She says they were all trembling as they had never seen such a frightening spectacle in their lives.

Her eldest daughter, who is 10, broke down into tears as wind tore through their house. “I was helpless,” she says. “My husband was at work and I had to move the kids all alone to a safe place. Fortunately, we got into one of the buses that service our route and escaped to Pemba town.”

A place far away from home

Zena and many families made it safe into Pemba and they were accommodated at one of the temporary shelters provided by government in the city. Life has not been easy for Zena and other families staying at the shelter as they feel it’s too crowded.

The centre is hosting 1,528 people and 805 are children.

“There is no privacy here,” she says. “There are as many as 15 families sleeping in one hall.”

Food is also a problem, she says. Many families didn’t manage to rescue their food reserves and now they rely on the communal meal that is offered once every day.  And it’s usually rice and beans, nothing else.

“The food is not enough. We could have at least wanted a change in diet but we don’t have control over that,” she says.

Plans for returning home

Since the cyclone destroyed their home, Zena’s husband has visited the place twice to clear the debris so that they can rebuild again. But Zena thinks the place is not good for raising their children as it is too dangerous.

“Yes, it’s our land but I think we should move to another place,” she says. “The kids are still scared and they are always telling me that they don’t want to go back. They fear that the cyclone will come back again.”

Read more about CARE's work in Mozambique.