Beira — More than two months after Cyclone Idai hit Mozambique, at least 400 children in the worst-affected province of Sofala are still living separated from their parents as an effect of the storm, according to a new assessment by Save the Children.
With only one province currently assessed, Save the Children fears that the total number of children separated from their parents is much higher. The aid agency is currently running a similar assessment in Manica province, but poor infrastructure coupled with a woeful lack of funding has hampered agency efforts.
Many of the separated children are now living with distant relatives or people from their village, in temporary shelters or accommodation centres. Save the Children, in close coordination with the government and other organisations, is working to trace the parents or direct family members of the children, so they can be reunited.
Lauren Murray, Child Protection Advisor for Save the Children in Mozambique, said:
"Some children, particularly young children, are either unable to communicate, or don't remember the name of their village. One boy who lost his family struggled to recall details except the church where his grandmother sang. However, thanks to these details and the work of our team, we found the church, and people there pointed us to the grandmother - that's how the family was able to be reconnected."
Tereza, 5, was separated from her mother Tamare, 34, when a helicopter came to rescue her from the football stadium where they had been sheltering for three days following Cylone Idai. Tamare handed Tereza to the rescuers, but was horrified to find they did not return to collect her.
"When I gave Tereza to the helicopter, I thought they were coming back to pick me up too, but they never came back. I started to think, 'What have I done?'"
It took one month for Tamare to save enough money to go to Beira, where she had heard Tereza was being cared for. When she finally got there, she went to the children's centre where Tereza had been staying.
"Somebody said 'She's here!' I was so happy because I knew my child was alive."
Save the Children has established a child protection system in Beira and other affected provinces of Mozambique, and is working alongside the government and other agencies to trace and reunite unaccompanied children who have been separated from their parents.
Save the Children is calling for the international community to step up their support for cyclone-hit Mozambique, with a special focus on vulnerable children.