OMer Estavao stands outside of his home in Mozambique. The back wall collapsed during the rains of Cyclone Idai. Photo by Rebecca Rempel

Not made to last

People in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe are still recovering from Cyclone Idai. OM is responding to the needs in different communities in these countries.

“This is my house,” stated OMer Estavão, gesturing to the three-walled home around him. All that remained of the fourth wall was two piles of neatly swept dirt.

“When my mom saw that the storm was coming, we moved everything that was inside my house into her house. The day after we had moved everything, the back wall just fell. So I moved out of this place and to the OM base.

The material for bricks is not so strong. Every year if the rain comes, you can have the same problem. The better material for bricks is cement. Those you can’t make in the village. You have to buy them in town and bring with a car.”

The bricks most commonly used to build houses in the area around Mocuba, Mozambique consist of two ingredients: dirt (the best being from ant hills) and water. The mixture is then put in a mould and baked in the sun. While these bricks are quick and easy to make, they are not made to last, and whole walls frequently succumb to heavy rains.

Plastic sheets are sometimes tacked to the outside of homes to shield the walls from the brunt of the water. With the rains and wind of Cyclone Idai, however, even the plastic failed to protect homes, and many collapsed. In one village of an estimated 600 houses, 148 fell down.

People won’t start rebuilding until the dry season has arrived in June or July. To rebuild before rainy season has ended means running the risk of the bricks collapsing once again. Until then, some people have patched up their homes as best they can. Others have elected to find other accommodation—renting elsewhere or staying with family.

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