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Cyclone Idai: People are starving along the 'road of suffering'

Sky News logo Sky News 25/03/2019 John Sparks, Africa correspondent, in Mozambique

The lorries carry more supplies than helicopters can © Sky News Screen Grab The lorries carry more supplies than helicopters can According to the map, this stretch of highway is called route number six.

But the people who live along it call it the road of suffering - because it links dozens of communities in a region devastated by cyclone Idai.

Just outside the port city of Beira, in Mozambique, we met 200 or so evacuees who had been housed in a badly damaged primary school.

The facility, which has been designated an official government reception centre, stood in a pool of putrid water - and the roofs were clearly leaking.

a man wearing a hat: One evacuee called Dianor Jane said that people were starving © Sky News Screen Grab One evacuee called Dianor Jane said that people were starving

More importantly perhaps, everyone was hungry. I spoke to one evacuee called Dianor Jane.

"We are starving here and we don't even have plastic to keep us dry, our homes are already destroyed, everything is gone."

In classroom number three we found a group of children who were busy scraping the bottom of cooking pots with their spoons.

a little girl standing in front of a building: Children housed in the school were scraping the bottom of pots © Sky News Screen Grab Children housed in the school were scraping the bottom of pots

Their parents cannot afford to buy them porridge and the government has not brought any supplies for days.

However, the residents of the Combatants Primary School need to be fed.

(In Photos: Effects of Cyclone Idai in southern Africa)

I asked a man called Bisulu Findine whether they had received any donations.

"We haven't had anything, we haven't had anything, a bit of porridge. Blankets? No blankets - nothing."

a group of people that are standing in the snow: Many evacuees have escaped from their flooded homes © Sky News Screen Grab Many evacuees have escaped from their flooded homes

As we got back onto the highway we were told that the residents of one village, called Mobeira, had relocated themselves under a bridge and we found them about a kilometre down the road.

Their cooking pots were also empty and they sourced their drinking from a pool of dirty water.

a group of people standing outside of a building: Some residents had located themselves under a bridge © Sky News Screen Grab Some residents had located themselves under a bridge I asked them why they did not travel into Beira, where several high-schools are providing shelter - and at least one meal a day - to those made homeless by the storms.

However, a woman called Celeste Mera told me that the local government secretary would not let them travel.

"You have to have permission to go to the city, but they have told us we have to stay here and wait ... all this time."

Many cooking pots were completely empty © Sky News Screen Grab Many cooking pots were completely empty

"Are you telling me you need permission from the local secretary to go and get food?" I asked.

"Yes," she said.

Obedience is obligatory in this top-down, centrally-controlled country - a nation has been ruled by the same political party since independence in 1975.

The bridge is constructed over a train line which links the region to the nation's capital, Maputo and we watched as the people of Mobeira quickly scooped up their things when a 30-car goods train sped through their campsite.

a group of people riding on the back of a truck: Obedience is mandatory in Mozambique © Sky News Screen Grab Obedience is mandatory in Mozambique

Back in the car, we continued inland as the floodwaters closed in on highway six.

From the roadside, I could see hundreds of people knee-deep in water, trying to catch themselves some food with bamboo poles and do-it-yourself hooks.

We were forced to stop at the point where the cyclone had knocked out the highway although we soon discovered that a team of Chinese engineers had been working on a temporary fix.

A large pile of rocks topped with a black, stubbly coating had been laid down through a giant pool of floodwater and we witnessed the first convoy of lorries begin to make their way across.

a man standing next to a river: People were attempting to catch themselves food with DIY fishing gear © Sky News Screen Grab People were attempting to catch themselves food with DIY fishing gear

This is a big deal because you can put many more tents, water purification kits and emergency rations in a lorry than a chopper.

Now they have the means, the authorities, along with the aid agencies, need to act because the people of Mozambique can wait no longer.

an image of a river: A convoy carrying water purification materials on the move © Sky News Screen Grab A convoy carrying water purification materials on the move

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