The firefighters were deployed a month ago by the Government of Brazil to help victims of Cyclone Idai. Image courtesy of Bombeiros do Brasil

PEMBA, Mozambique – Brazilian military firefighters, in coordination with the Government of Mozambique and several UN agencies, 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.

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 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 over 7,000 pregnant women are at risk of unsafe childbirth in affected areas.

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

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

Saving lives

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.

“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, who commands the Brazilian firefighters. “If the people there had not resisted, more than a hundred would have died.”

Ingo Piegeler, UNFPA’s humanitarian coordinator in the area, said that UNFPA is contributing to the joint search and rescue operation in the field by stocking maternity kits to send them through local partners to health centers in Cabo Delgado Province, where Kenneth made landfall in Mozambique. UNFPA is also loading trucks with tents for clinics that provide women’s sexual and reproductive health services, and planning to distribute 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 greatly vulnerable situations like that of storm-battered Mozambique.

While the two cyclone have passed, the country is still grappling to deal with the destruction left behind by two almost consecutive natural disasters. UN agencies are at the frontlines, but conditions are dire.

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

A version of this story originally appeared on the UNFPA website.