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Matundo, MOZAMBIQUE—When their home began to flood shortly before midnight on 15 March, heavily pregnant Tina Patissone, 30, grabbed her 4 children and braved strong winds to reach 3rd of January Secondary School, where other people had gathered. 

Within hours, Ms. Patissone felt the start of contractions. Those with her knew that if she was to have a safe birth, she would need the assistance of a midwife or trained birth assistant. They attempted to contact the provincial hospital to call for an ambulance, to no avail. All of the mobile networks had been down since Cyclone Idai made landfall on 14 March.

They did the next best thing they could. They arranged a motorcycle taxi to transport her to Matundo Health Centre.

Thankfully, Ms. Patissone reached the hospital safely and within a short space of time she gave birth to her daughter, Joana Antonio, without any complications.

UNFPA responds to the needs of women and girls

Cyclone Idai has brought torrential rains and high winds to the provinces of Sofala, Manica, Zambezia, Tete and Inhambane, cutting off districts and causing extensive damage to homes and infrastructure.

As heavy rains continued to affect the central region of the country this week, UNFPA responded to the needs on the ground. Transit centres have been created to house thousands of people who have been displaced.

Ms. Patissone and her family were accommodated in one of 94 tents in a transit centre located at the Industrial Institute of Matundo in Tete City, before seeking shelter elsewhere.

UNFPA provided Ms. Patissone and other women and girls sheltering at the centre with dignity kits, which contain essential products for women and girls, including capulanas (sarongs), soap, sanitary pads, toothbrushes, a safety whistle and other essentials.

UNFPA has proceeded with the distribution of dignity kits, Maama
kits and family planning resource kits, to restore health and dignity to
the women and girls affected. © UNFPA Zimbabwe

“I am really happy with the dignity kit,” said Ms. Patissone. “It would be good if these were made available not only in times of crisis but in good times as well. Being clean and taking care of oneself is important for women and even more so for a newborn baby.”

Thousands take refuge in transit centres

Her family is one of 348 families that have since left the centre and taken shelter with family or friends. About 274 families are still living in the transit centres.

Sadly, she discovered that her home has been destroyed and their compound is unrecognizable.

Ms. Patissone and her family are currently residing with a family friend, who opened up his house to them when he heard about the birth of Joana. However, she would not like to overstay their welcome.

They are hoping to get a tent and begin reconstructing their home, ideally in an area less prone to flooding, said her husband, Antonio Nestala Ntundo.

State of emergency declared

Ms. Patissone has not lost any friends or family members in the floods. Others have not been lucky. In the affected provinces, Cyclone Idai has claimed the lives of more than 200 people so far, according to the official death toll.

The Government of Mozambique has declared a national state of emergency due to the destruction caused by Cyclone Idai, which has also caused widespread flooding in Malawi and Zimbabwe (view Sub-Regional Situation Report 1: Malawi - Mozambique - Zimbabwe: 14 March, Sub-Regional Situation Report 2: Malawi - Mozambique - Zimbabwe: March 2019 and Cyclone Idai Appeal).

UNFPA estimates that about 74,650 women impacted by the cyclone are pregnant. More than 43,000 women are estimated to give birth in the next six months. Of these, about 7,465 are at risk of life-threatening complications of pregnancy in the next six months; they will need access to functioning health facilities and care.

UNFPA Mozambique, government, and other partners are working to ensure women have access to basic and lifesaving health services like pregnancy check-ups, safe childbirth services, and a variety of voluntary contraception methods.

- Karlina Salu, with additional input from Aimee Manimani and Lindsay Barnes