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U.N. Makes Emergency Appeal For $282 Million To Help Cyclone Victims In Mozambique


It was 10 days ago that Cyclone Idai struck Africa, leaving huge swaths of three countries underwater. More than 750 people are dead. In Mozambique alone, the United Nations says almost 2 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. Aid groups say if help doesn't come fast, an already terrible disaster could get worse. NPR's Eyder Peralta reports.

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: Sacha Myers has been working in one of the worst-hit areas for Save the Children.

SACHA MYERS: The situation is absolutely devastating.

PERALTA: She's been helping kids find parents, and she's been moving around the hard-hit port city of Beira. And in most places, she says, all you see is mud. Where homes and communities once stood, there is only mud. But people have nothing, so they are digging, looking for whatever belongings they might be able to find.

MYERS: And it was absolutely heartbreaking to see people who had been forced to go back to what was left of their homes salvage through the mud for something and then wash them in the dirty water just to try and have something else to wear.

PERALTA: The United Nations says they realized very quickly that the scale of this disaster is much bigger than their response. Among the 2 million in need of assistance in Mozambique, 100,000 people are living in camps. The chief of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Elhadj As Sy, says he was stunned by what he saw during his trip - floodwaters as far as he could see.

ELHADJ AS SY: And trees as high as 10 meters, you know, were all under water.

PERALTA: And the humanitarian response, he says, was not appropriate.

AS SY: Transit and shelter facilities are not good to be very honest. Some of them are even horrendous.

PERALTA: A school with 15 classrooms, he says, was housing 3,000 people. They were all sharing six toilets. Situations like that, he says, will no doubt bring outbreaks of cholera and other communicable diseases.

AS SY: So it's not an exaggeration when I say that we're really sitting here on a water sanitation/hygiene ticking bomb.

PERALTA: The U.N. is asking for $282 million to help with the catastrophe. As Sy says if more is not done, more people will die.

Eyder Peralta, NPR News, Nairobi. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.