Scenes of destruction at Buzi Hospital
A recent United Nations report revealed that by mid-April, up to 69,000 people had been displaced, 12,297 were battling cases of malaria and 6,258 cases of cholera had been reported. Nonetheless, Anthony Ndung'u could not believe what he saw when his plane landed in Beira.
On March 14, 2019, cyclone Idai battered southern Africa, destroying large swathes of Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe. Mozambique was the most severely hit with the port city of Beira almost fully submerged in water. A few days after the cyclone, Anthony was checking in for his night shift duty at the Aga Khan University Hospital Nairobi (AKUHN) when one of his colleagues stopped him along the corridor and asked whether he would be interested in joining a team that was headed to deliver emergency response to victims of the cyclone. Anthony agreed immediately.
Two days later on March 22, the AKU-SONAM alumnus was part of a nine-man team assembled as part of a mission by the AKUHN to provide emergency response to the victims. They took a four-hour direct flight to Maputo, the capital city of Mozambique, where they were hosted by Ms Maria Victorino and the rest of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) before taking another flight to Beira.
Anthony spoke with SONAM News about his experience in Mozambique: "The scene was gory… the water had moved inland by 80 kilometres from the sea and everywhere was flooded. From the plane we could see how far the water had come in and the areas that had totally submerged. It was a scene from a bomb explosion: roofs had been torn off, buildings had crumbled, and village settlements had been swept away…These were poor communities, and the little they had was swept away. I [even] found them living in a school."
Motivated by the gloomy situation, the team got to work. After a reconnaissance mission by the armies on the ground, they mapped out that the worst-hit areas were Buzi (almost 200km from Beira) and Guara Guara (about 45km west of Beira). The cyclone had thrashed through the town at speeds of about 178 km/hr, meaning that as roofs were torn off buildings and furniture billowed into the air, they clattered into anything, including people. The team treated many villagers who were badly cut or had injuries that became infected, but Anthony also said they treated "many people with pre-existing conditions because the cyclone also hit those who were patients at Buzi hospital." In Guara Guara, they treated those with wounds and cuts, administered tetanus vaccines, pain killers and analgesics, tested for malaria, started patients on intravenous fluids, fixed nasogastric tubes and dewormed patients.
By March 27, they were back in Nairobi, exhausted but happy to have helped fellow Africans when they needed it the most. As a parting shot, Anthony shared that "The biggest lesson I learned from AKU-SONAM was my way of thinking. Before, I used to think that when you see a problem, you address the problem for what it is. Like when a child comes to me with a fever, before, I used to only see the fever. Now, I ask myself, what is behind the fever? I now look at things not only for what they are, but what they could be."