Yesterday, 5 days after cyclone Kenneth struck, I managed to speak to Quissirua, our General Manager and heart & soul of Guludo Beach Lodge. The elation of finally hearing his voice soon turned to utter horror as he described what had happened when the cyclone hit and the unthinkable aftermath he and his family, and tens of thousands more, are now living through.
There had been no history of cyclones here, yet Kenneth was the strongest cyclone to make landfall on the eastern coast of Africa. Our partner communities were now feeling the full force of the climate crisis, of which they played no part in creating.
Quissirua joined our team as a security guard in 2004, when I was just 24, and we were still building Guludo Beach Lodge. We had an audacious dream of showing the world the profound potential within tourism to tackle global challenges and we found one of the most beautiful places on earth to do so.
Fast forward a little and Guludo Beach Lodge (along with our charity, Nema) had won every global responsible tourism award of note and the model is lifting over 36,000 people living in one of the poorest areas of Africa out of poverty. New schools bursting with kids with full bellies from a school meals program, scholars we’ve supported through their educational journey are now teachers and nurses, clean water flows from countless water points we’ve help rehabilitate or install, trail-bike ambulances service the area and we were about to embark on our biggest project yet; the construction of a hospital.
Then, mid 2018 the start of a harrowing 12 months for our peaceful corner of Northern Mozambique and our neighbouring villages began, with violence, from outside, returning 26 years after the civil war ended. And then, on the 25th April 2019, just 6 short days ago, that already seems like a lifetime, the eye of Cyclone Kenneth made a direct hit on Guludo’s beach and powered through the village.
On a bad mobile phone connection, Quissirua tells me seven people were killed in his village alone and almost everyone is injured. He’s struggling to walk with cuts to his legs from nails, when the roof of his house gave in and is suffering without his diabetes medication. However, his wife is far worse; part of the roof struck her directly, narrowly missing the youngest children she was sheltering in her arms. His home, and every other house in the region, is completely destroyed along with the schools and clinics. Everyone is sleeping outside or in tiny shelters made with palm fronds, still exposed to the torrential rain. All they have is what they’re wearing and, miraculously, Quissirua’s motorbike somehow survived — this is how he managed to make contact. He rode his motorbike, hoping he had enough fuel for the return journey, south to Mipande, a village 20km to the south, to find a signal from the cell tower on Ibo island to call us. He needed to head back to his family before dark and was planning to try and gather some coconuts from fallen palms on his way home to give to his children, so they would at least eat something.
Gustavo, Nema’s GM, also managed to make contact with Mucojo survivors at the point where the road into the area is blocked by the river. They told him a similarly horrific story, listing how many people had been killed in each village; 10 in Mucojo, 10 in Manica, 5 in Rueia, the list went on. Everyone is suffering and all the administrative and government infrastructure in Mucojo has been destroyed. Everyone is injured and hungry. The population of Mucojo and surrounding villages is 36,000 and, when you include the populations of Pangne and Quitirajo, also shut off, the population quickly doubles.
All 43 of the Guludo and Nema staff are safe, although many are badly injured. The Lodge is also completely destroyed, only 2 shipping containers, used for storage, are still standing; one of which has 4.5 tons of “matafome” (a local nickname translating as “kill the hunger”) which is normally used in our school feeding program, to feed children at local schools a daily meal. Quissirua is going to work with Assane from Nema to distribute the “matafome” straight away, making sure the most vulnerable are the first in line. Incredibly, members of the team had already been to the lodge to salvage what they could from the rubble to safely store in one of the containers. They carefully removed an outboard engine off our boat, which is now in pieces, to safeguard. They are testament to the type of people who live here; resilient, passionate and loyal beyond belief.
Gustavo, Laura, myself and our fellow Nema trustees are working tirelessly to find ways to get support to the communities. We are quickly learning about the ugly politics of emergency relief but Gustavo is relentlessly putting pressure on the World Food Program, the United Nation’s OCHA agency and the military to get into Mucojo as quickly as possible. Nema is the only NGO based in Mucojo and we’re hoping he will accompany them today to Mucojo where Nema (and many of the Guludo staff) will play a central role in getting food and support to the right people.
I have no idea what Guludo Beach Lodge’s future will be, without the financial resources to rebuild, all I know right now is we need to gather every crumb of goodwill and support from around the world to support the communities we care so deeply about, and the reason Guludo Beach Lodge was created.
What can you do?
DONATE: We are desperate for donations to do as much as possible on the ground now and for the long term recovery*.
SPREAD THE NEWS: Share, share, share. The world needs to wake up and to this suffering and respond.
JOIN US: Get in touch to let us know you’d like to help, in kind (e.g. prizes for auctions/raffles) or with your skills, expertise, time and energy.
- Thanks to the tireless support of JoJo Maman Bébé covering all our admin, every penny will go directly to helping our communities, so please be as generous as you can.
Update December 2019:
Thanks to local and international support, Nema was the first in to distribute over 80 tons of food by boat and has since rebuilt 11 schools and two clinics. The situation remains desperate with over 100,000 people scrambling to rebuild their homes and lives since the cyclone. To donate please visit Nema Foundation.