Thousands starve as Cyclone Idai's impact continues in Mozambique

John Sparks, Africa correspondent

A large crowd turned as one as we arrived at the Mango Mascarenha primary school. Then, they began to cheer. I think they thought we were bringing them aid and assistance.

But the celebratory shouts soon turned to despair when they realised we were actually journalists.

It was understandable. Who wants to talk about a cyclone and days of torrential rain if you are starving and forced to drink from dirty puddles?

Two thousand people have been waiting in the school yard for a meal - or cup of porridge they can take home to their families - and they've been waiting in this suburb of Beira for days.

One man could not contain himself, saying: "They took our phone numbers and our names three days ago and they said they were bringing supplies but they haven't done anything."

A woman spoke to me softly in English. "It's bad, everything is very bad."

Cyclone Idai has levelled homes and businesses and disrupted the power supply. It also seems also to have knocked out the government.

My hand was taken by a local government leader who was clearly struggling to deal with this primary school rebellion.

Pensar Ardo Hotela Pamala told me he is responsible for a hundred or so people sheltering in the school after their homes were destroyed in the storm, but he says he cannot look after everyone in the community.

He said: "The government brought supplies according to the number [being sheltered] at the school so when we divide it all up, it is not enough for everyone, that is why we have all this confusion."

To make sure his meagre looking grain store is kept safe, Mr Pamala has deployed a soldier with a machine gun at the entrance of classroom three.

But the municipal government leader sounded frustrated.

"Until now we have had nothing from government. Ok, they give us 500kg of [porridge] for 2,000 people. It is not enough, not enough," he said.

A few hundred metres away we witnessed similar scenes of desperation. Three men in a truck carrying a tank of clean water were trying to make a delivery at another primary school.

However, word soon spread that water had arrived and dozens of people ran to the site with their empty containers

What followed next was little short of a brawl as neighbours fought neighbours for a few litres of water. Unable to cope, the crew departed without giving it all away. I saw them swatting young boys away as they made their retreat.

The authorities in Mozambique and the international aid agencies have had a week to assess the scale of this disaster but they are clearly struggling to get aid to those who need it.

Their operations base, at the local airport in Beira, is a hive of activity but the suburb of Mango Mascarenha lies only two or three kilometres away.

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