Guinea Bissau: recovering from the storm

News and Press Release
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By Moustapha Diallo, IFRC

Under heavy rain, Ica Lopes Da Silva, accompanied by her son Julio Cesar, tries to carry, towards a rented tricycle motorbike, the items she has just received from the Red Cross of Guinea Bissau. The 53-year-old woman lives with disability but insists she has to participate in the offloading and loading exercise. It took lengthy negotiations by Red Cross volunteers to dissuade and spare her from this difficult task.

“This is nothing compared to what I have experienced,” she said.

In late June, a severe storm struck Guinea Bissau. Heavy rains and violent winds with speeds ranging from 80 to 120 Km/h, according to the National Meteorological Agency, wiped out hundreds of houses and social infrastructures, including roads, hospitals and schools. In Bissau, the capital, about 2,000 families were affected, and nearly 260 houses were destroyed or partially damaged. The district of Antula Takir, where Ica Lopes lives, was among the hardest hit.

“I lost almost everything. The entire tin roof was gone exposing, my family and my belongings to the heavy rains. Three bedrooms collapsed and until now, I don’t know where the zinc sheets landed,” explained Ica Lopes.

Since the disaster, Ica, who is a single mother looking after her seven children, was forced to seek shelter with her neighbours. She had no money for even the most basic commodities. The tiny room provided by Sergio, her neighbour, has two thin mattresses. At the entry, there is a chaotic jumble of the only items she was able to salvage.

“I survive thanks to the help I receive. Now, my only hope of getting out of this situation is my eldest son who got a job last month, as an English teacher,” she added.

While some affected families were able to rebuild or repair their damaged houses a few weeks after the disaster, this is not the case for hundreds of them. The Red Cross Society of Guinea Bissau, with support from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), is helping them to get back on their feet.

On this particular day of October 2018, when our team spoke to Ica Lopez, hundreds of people, including her, filed through the compound of the Red Cross branch of Sab, in Bissau to pick up their shelter kits. The tools inside along with the zinc sheets will help them to make repairs to their homes.

“This assistance is invaluable to us. It is the first that we have received since the disaster,” explained Rosete Gomes, a 68-year-old widow, standing next to Ica Lopes. “With this help I will be able to repair the roof of my house and leave the room I rented with my family for 40 US dollars per month. That’s a lot of money for a retiree like me.”

For Ica lopez, it will take more time to move back into her house as many walls collapsed. Her son, the newly recruited English teacher, has promised to repair the house. For the moment, she is recovering the bricks that have remained intact, from the ruins. The support provided by the Red Cross comprising 65 zinc sheets and construction tools is a big step forward for recovery.

In total, 260 families have been assisted through provision of shelter kits, construction materials as well as hygiene kits including soap, jerrycan, buckets and water purification tablets. Cash grants will be provided to the most vulnerable to help them cover their basic need and restore their livelihoods.