For two days before Cyclone Idai hit, a government official drove down the bumpy roads of Buzi in central Mozambique, warning people through a megaphone that a big storm was coming.
He told them to find a place to shelter, but many people in the once bustling estuary town did not know where to go.
Among them were 21-year-old Gaspar Armando and his extended family of 15. When the cyclone ripped though Buzi on March 14, they stayed in their four homes made of sticks, mud until the storm tore off the sheet-metal roofs, and the walls collapsed.
Around midnight, with the rain horizontal, the family ran to a small concrete slaughterhouse nearby. They have lived there ever since, climbing onto the blue steel roof when the floods came.
“The government knew it was going to be bad but they didn’t find us a safe place. They didn’t organise it,” Armando said.
Such scenes played out in many other towns and villages, survivors said. Government and humanitarian officials said they did not anticipate the extent of flooding in one of the most severe storms to hit Africa’s east coast in more than a decade.
An early warning system implemented by the government did not reach everyone and in the poorest, most remote areas there are few solid structures where people can shelter, aid workers and residents said.
The death toll had reached 468 in Mozambique by Tuesday and hundreds of thousands of others were in need of food, water, and shelter, according to the United Nations.
NO PLACE TO GO
Many people are angry that the government did not do more to protect them. Reuters’ interviews with 18 people in four communities spread across 100 kilometres (62 miles) showed the warning systems proved insufficient.
Four of those interviewed said they had received no warning about the impending storm. The others said they were warned but were offered no help moving to a safer place.
Makeshift camps were set up on higher ground only after the flooding, they said, so many people decided to see out the storm in their homes.
“We thought it would just be a little rain,” said Louisa Ndega, 60, sheltering at a camp in the village of Guara Guara.
Mozambique’s land and environment minister, Celso Correia, who is leading the government’s response to the disaster, told Reuters it was not clear until the final days before the storm where it would hit.
The area under threat was too vast and, with about 7 million inhabitants, too heavily populated to be evacuated, he said.
Mozambique was also hit by deadly floods and cyclones in 2000 and 2007, and since then has beefed up its response team and implemented an early-warning system.
The system was triggered weeks before Cyclone Idai, with red flags raised to alert people to the dangers, Correia said.
He said people had been told to seek higher ground when they saw the flags flying, but that no one could have predicted the force and speed of the flooding when two big rivers burst their banks following the cyclone.
The area around the coastal town of Beira, where the cyclone made landfall, started flooding within 36 hours of the storm and was soon unrecognisable, with brown water covering the land.
“These floods were extreme,” Correia said. “It was almost instantaneous.”
Philippe Caroff, a forecaster at the regional cyclone centre on the French island of La Reunion, said his agency’s forecasts were showing a “high level of threat” for the region almost three days before the cyclone made landfall, including storm surges of nearly four metres (13 ft) around Beira.
“It was not difficult to imagine that flooding would become a problem because the area is very flat,” he said.
There had also been a significant amount of rain in the preceding months, the wet season in Mozambique, he said.
The country’s national weather service receives updates from the centre, and cyclone bulletins are available on its website, Caroff said.
He said he had sent an email to the chief forecaster at the Mozambique weather service when the risk of a worst-case scenario became apparent. In it, he said, he expressed hope that all preparations had been made for Beira’s coastal frontline.
Mozambique’s weather service could not immediately be reached by phone and did not respond to an email seeking comment.
The United Nations’ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which is overseeing the international relief effort, declined comment on the government’s preparations.
From Mozambique, Cyclone Idai tore inland into Zimbabwe and Malawi, flattening buildings and causing deadly mudslides.
At least 179 people were killed in Zimbabwe, where the Department of Civil Protection had sent text messages and issued radio and television warnings advising people to move away from areas in the cyclone’s path two days before it hit.
But in Zimbabwe’s worst affected district, Chimanimani, many said they had no place to go because the government had not provided shelter, and there was no mandatory evacuation order.
In Malawi, the death toll stood at 60.
Scientists believe climate change will make cyclones like Idai more frequent, making it vital that systems are in place to protect the most vulnerable, according to humanitarian agencies.
“There are definitely lessons to be learned,” said Pierluigi Testa, an emergency coordinator for the international aid group Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders).
Testa said a network of purpose-built, reinforced-concrete storm shelters similar to ones used in Bangladesh could have offered protection against the cyclone.
Correia said there was no time to set up such facilities in Mozambique. About 300,000 people had moved to higher ground though even some of these places ended up under water, he said.
“I FELT LIKE WE WERE GOING TO DIE”
No one interviewed by Reuters moved in anticipation of the storm. Some sought refuge in sturdy buildings such as schools.
At a hospital south of Beira, Catarina Meque, 21, said the water was already rising when she received the flood warning.
Medical staff started shouting to people to climb onto beds but hospital workers fled as the water got higher, and Meque said she followed with her malnourished six-month-old baby.
“I felt like we were going to die if we waited there,” she said in Guara Guara, which she reached after walking for 17 hours through waist-high water.
About 100 km northwest of Beira, in the devastated village of John Segredo, villagers said they received no warning at all.
Many people remain fearful. In Buzi, a mother holding a young child asked: “The water — it’s not coming back, is it?”
World Bank pushes G-20 to extend debt relief to 2021
World Bank Group President David Malpass has urged the Group of 20 rich countries to extend the time frame of the Debt Service Suspension Initiative(DSSI) through the end of 2021, calling it one of the key factors in strengthening global recovery.
“I urge you to extend the time frame of the DSSI through the end of 2021 and commit to giving the initiative as broad a scope as possible,” said Malpass.
He made these remarks at last week’s virtual G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting.
The World Bank Chief said the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered the deepest global recession in decades and what may turn out to be one of the most unequal in terms of impact.
People in developing countries are particularly hard hit by capital outflows, declines in remittances, the collapse of informal labor markets, and social safety nets that are much less robust than in the advanced economies.
For the poorest countries, poverty is rising rapidly, median incomes are falling and growth is deeply negative.
Debt burdens, already unsustainable for many countries, are rising to crisis levels.
“The situation in developing countries is increasingly desperate. Time is short. We need to take action quickly on debt suspension, debt reduction, debt resolution mechanisms and debt transparency,” said Malpass.
Kenya’s Central Bank Drafts New Laws to Regulate Non-Bank Digital Loans
The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) will regulate interest rates charged on mobile loans by digital lending platforms if amendments on the Central bank of Kenya Act pass to law. The amendments will require digital lenders to seek approval from CBK before launching new products or changing interest rates on loans among other charges, just like commercial banks.
“The principal objective of this bill is to amend the Central bank of Kenya Act to regulate the conduct of providers of digital financial products and services,” reads a notice on the bill. “CBK will have an obligation of ensuring that there is fair and non-discriminatory marketplace access to credit.”
According to Business Daily, the legislation will also enable the Central Bank to monitor non-performing loans, capping the limit at not twice the amount of the defaulted loan while protecting consumers from predatory lending by digital loan platforms.
Tighter Reins on Platforms for Mobile Loans
The legislation will boost efforts to protect customers, building upon a previous gazette notice that blocked lenders from blacklisting non-performing loans below Ksh 1000. The CBK also withdrew submissions of unregulated mobile loan platforms into Credit Reference Bureau. The withdrawal came after complaints of misuse over data in the Credit Information Sharing (CIS) System available for lenders.
Last year, Kenya had over 49 platforms providing mobile loans, taking advantage of regulation gaps to charge obscene rates as high as 150% a year. While most platforms allow borrowers to prepay within a month, creditors still pay the full amount plus interest.
Amendments in the CBK Act will help shield consumers from high-interest rates as well as offer transparency on terms of digital loans.
Scope Markets Kenya customers to have instant access to global financial markets
NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 20 – Clients trading through the Scope Markets Kenya trading platform will get instant access to global financial markets and wider investment options.
This follows the launch of a new Scope Markets app, available on both the Google PlayStore and IOS Apple Store.
The Scope Markets app offers clients over 500 investment opportunities across global financial markets.
The Scope Markets app has a brand new user interface that is very user friendly, following feedback from customers.
The application offers real-time quotes; newsfeeds; research facilities, and a chat feature which enables a customer to make direct contact with the Customer Service Team during trading days (Monday to Friday).
The platform also offers an enhanced client interface including catering for those who trade at night.
The client will get instant access to several asset classes in the global financial markets including; Single Stocks CFDs (US, UK, EU) such as Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google, BP, Carrefour; Indices (Nasdaq, FTSE UK), Metals (Gold, Silver); Currencies (60+ Pairs), Commodities (Oil, Natural Gas).
The launch is part of Scope Markets Kenya strategy of enriching the customer experience while offering clients access to global trading opportunities.
Scope Markets Kenya CEO, Kevin Ng’ang’a observed, “the Sope Markets app is very easy to use especially when executing trades. Customers are at the heart of everything we do. We designed the Scope Markets app with the customer experience in mind as we seek to respond to feedback from our customers.”
He added that enhancing the client experience builds upon the robust trading platform, Meta Trader 5, unveiled in 2019, enabling Scope Markets Kenya to broaden the asset classes available on the trading platform.