Senior Management Consultant Herbert Bos has gone to Mozambique on behalf of UNICEF to help victims of Cyclone IDAI, which ravaged the country in March 2019. This is his story.
As a senior management consultant at AT Osborne, I am aware of the company’s mission – Urban Matters, People Matter – but I don’t think about it every single day. That is, until I arrived at Bandua Regulo refugee camp in Sofala province, Mozambique on 24 April 2019 at around 1 or 2 pm after a long drive in our land cruiser. This camp was full of people who had fled after two rivers, Revue en Búzi, had burst their banks. In the camp, I encountered around 1,700 people (+/- 350 families) living in tents with no access to water, food or medical care. These people have lost their homes – literally washed away by extremely severe flooding. Some of them spent five days waiting on the roof of a building before being rescued by boat or helicopter. This was the first time I truly understood what is meant by the term ‘climate refugees’.
Making a difference
Something changed in me when I saw the contrast between the urgent need for basic amenities and the hopeful faces of the many children there. This was the moment when I realised that AT Osborne can truly make a difference in some situations.
A little bit of background on what happened: Cyclone Idai brought extremely strong winds (220 km/hour) and serious flooding to central Mozambique in mid-March 2019. The result: massive devastation to the country, countless deaths and the loss of many homes. As I had previously spent time working in emergency situations in Mozambique, I informed my colleagues at the beginning of April that I wanted to go and work for UNICEF as a water specialist. AT Osborne is fully supportive of our joint mission. My colleagues helped me to hand off all my current assignments in perfect order. This is a good demonstration of our motto: People Matter!
Here in Mozambique, I organise water supplies, sanitation and hygiene on behalf of UNICEF in the Búzi, the district most severely affected by the cyclone. This district is approximately as large as the provinces of Brabant and Limburg in the Netherlands. The area is home to several refugee camps. As the majority of these climate refugees can no longer return to where they came from, a number of new areas are being established in order to give people a starting point from which to rebuild their lives. These new areas consist solely of “mato”, as the locals call it: areas of wilderness where poles are pushed into the earth to demarcate plots of land. No infrastructure, no facilities, nothing other than reed beds and trees. My task is to make sure that these new ‘neighbourhoods’ are connected up as soon as possible to an existing water system (occasionally), or to organise the development of a new water system (much more frequent). A new water system often consists of groundwater sources with a pump, an elevated water tank and a number of public taps. As a hydrologist and engineer, I am fortunately aware of the challenges associated with a system of this kind, e.g. in dealing with saline groundwater.
Never before have I felt so strongly that this role is about people. People Matter.
UNICEF does not build water facilities, pumps or latrines itself; we organise and finance partners who do this work. This is sometimes the Mozambican government or businesses, and often extends to aid organisations such as Oxfam Novib and the Red Cross. In the end, then, I came here to take on a programme management role again – a position I’m well suited to as an AT Osborne employee. It’s about consolidating people, money and plans in order to solve genuine problems, and marshalling expertise and ability to be able to do good. Never before have I felt so strongly that this role is about people. People Matter.