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World

Cyclone Kenneth Strikes Mozambique With Devastating Floods And Winds

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

For the second time in as many months, Mozambique is recovering from a deadly cyclone. In March, it was you Idai. This time it's Kenneth. Kenneth was a Category 4 cyclone when it made landfall in the north of the country last week. Devastating winds were followed by days of torrential rain and widespread flooding. The government says at least 38 people have died.

For more, we're joined by Deborah Nguyen with the United Nations World Food Programme. She's in Pemba, near the center of the storm's path. And to begin, can you tell us what the damage looks like on the streets of Pemba right now?

DEBORAH NGUYEN: In Pemba itself right now it's completely flooded. It has rained for the past two days, which is making humanitarian aid difficult.

CORNISH: Currently you're involved with the teams who are distributing food. What kind of food are you bringing to people? And how are you able to reach them?

NGUYEN: So depending on the areas where we bring food, we bring different commodities. So for example, this morning, I was on a plane that was bringing high-energy biscuits to Ibo Island. And you could see that everything was destroyed. So all the trees were down. Houses were completely wrecked. It was a very desolating image. And it has been raining a lot. Everything is wet. And the food that they had in store has been damaged by the rains.

So we bring high-energy biscuits, and you don't need cooking to eat this food. While in other places where people are able to cook, we bring rice, maize, beans, and we are also bringing highly nutritious food to places that are already affected by malnutrition so that children and pregnant and breastfeeding mothers can get all the vitamins and nutrients they need.

CORNISH: You mentioned malnutrition. Can you talk about the communities that were hit? They were already struggling, right?

NGUYEN: Yeah, so Mozambique is one of the poorest countries in the world. People don't have enough food to live. And that's why we were already present in the country for many, many years. And this shock is impacting them even more. And we are very concerned because with climate change, things will not get better. And this is the first time that the country is facing two very strong cyclones in a period of six weeks' time.

CORNISH: What is the greatest risk right now? Is flooding still a concern?

NGUYEN: The weather forecast is planning for 600 millimeters of rainfall in the coming days, which is twice as much as the quantity of rain we have seen in Beira after the first cyclone, which is really concerning because in Beira, the situation was very bad. So if the weather forecast turns out to be correct, the health and sanitation situation here will worsen, and it will be harder to access areas with food as well.

CORNISH: The recovery effort after Cyclone Idai was already facing a funding shortfall. Do you think relief organizations will have the resources they need to respond to another disaster?

NGUYEN: We definitely need more support from the international community. We are expecting that our financial need will raise very quickly as we see that the situation is worsening now in the north of the country. But we are able to respond nonetheless because we already had means on the ground. We had a team that was quickly able to deploy. And we have two helicopters that just arrived today in Pemba. And we'll be able to fly as soon as tomorrow if the weather permits.

CORNISH: What do you think are going to be the biggest concerns in this region going forward?

NGUYEN: So now we have the peak of the harvest season, and if it continues raining, people will lose their crops. And they depend heavily on those crops for their livelihoods. So it is not only going to be about making sure that people get the food they need in this time of emergency but for the coming six months.

CORNISH: Deborah Nguyen, thank you so much for sharing this with us.

NGUYEN: Thank you very much.

CORNISH: And she is with the U.N. World Food Programme in Pemba, Mozambique.

(SOUNDBITE OF ANENON'S "LIGHTS AND ROCKS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.