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PEMBA, Mozambique – "We took a lot of people out of vulnerable areas that were completely flooded. The water rose and destroyed many residential areas," said Captain Kleber Castro. "If the people there had not resisted, more than a hundred would have died."

Captain Castro commands the Brazilian military firefighters who have saved the lives of hundreds of people displaced by Cyclone Kenneth near the flooded city of Pemba in the northern part of the country, in conjuction with the Government of Mozambique and several UN agencies.

At least nine people have died and almost 200 have been reported injured since April 23, when Kenneth made landfall on Comoros before crossing into Mozambique, according to the latest UN situation report.

Kenneth has affected more than 168,000 people in Mozambique, including 42,000 people displaced by rain and floods in Nampula Province alone. It is estimated that more than 7,000 pregnant women are at risk of unsafe childbirth in affected areas.

Kenneth is the second major tropical cyclone to hit Mozambique in just five weeks. The first, Cyclone Idai, caused more than more 1,000 deaths – including more than 600 in Mozambique – and also affected Malawi and Zimbabwe.

Saving lives

More than 7,000 pregnant women are at risk of unsafe childbirth in
areas affected by Cyclone Kenneth. © UNFPA Mozambique

The firefighters have been in the area for a month. They were deployed by the Government of Brazil to assist UN agencies in the post-Idai search, rescue and recovery operations.

Ingo Piegeler, UNFPA's humanitarian coordinator in the area, said that UNFPA was contributing to the joint search and rescue operation in the field by providing maternity kits for dissemination via local partners at health centres in Cabo Delgado Province, where Kenneth made landfall in Mozambique. UNFPA also loaded trucks with tents, for clinics that provide women's sexual and reproductive health services, and was planning to distribute further dignity kits for affected women and girls.

Since the beginning of the response to Idai, UNFPA has distributed more than 4,000 dignity kits, set up clinics and services dedicated to prevent and combat gender-based violence in shelters, and trained activists and midwives to work in highly vulnerable situations, such as storm-battered Mozambique.

While the two cyclones have now passed, the country is still grappling with the destruction left behind by the two – almost consecutive – natural disasters. UN agencies are at the frontlines, and conditions are dire.

"Our main challenge is reaching the communities in these climatic conditions," said OCHA spokesman, Saviano Abreu, who was in Mahate, a neighbourhood at risk of landslides. "With heavy rain, the operation is very complicated and we have to fight against time to save lives."