Andrea Varner, Integral’s Short-Term Coordinator in Mozambique, gives us an update about encouraging collaboration among Integral Members in the wake of the recent devastating cyclones to hit the country …
What work do you do when you aren’t seconded to Integral as Short Term Coordinator to the Cyclone response?
I work with World Concern as the global Community and Public Health Technical Advisor.
What were your first impressions after arriving in Mozambique?
Even after arriving one month after Cyclone Idai, the impact of the disaster was still visible, tangible, and there was a feeling of urgency. This indicated to me the long road to recovery ahead for many. Yet, each and every day there are signs of change, growth, and recovery. A mended roof, reopened shop, damaged trees removed, and debris collected, that shows progress is being made.
In what ways have you seen Integral Members working together in their Cyclone Idai response?
There’s a collective effort by Integral Members to serve the disaster-affected communities they work with, using their unique capacities and in a collaborative way. For example, this might be two Members mapping out their specific targeted activities in shared geographical locations to avoid overlap, or complementing each other’s work by discussing options – targeted vs blanket distributions for example. Also, Integral Members have shared resources and staff across agencies, so identifying needs and filling in the gaps where appropriate.
What have been your main activities since arriving in Mozambique?
A large part of my activities were getting connected with Members and their partners on the ground, going to humanitarian coordination meetings and trying to find opportunities for collaboration, information sharing and networking between organisations. I’ve also been going to the Mental Health and Psychosocial, Protection, Child Protection, and Gender Based Violence meetings in Beira as these meetings are currently not covered by Integral Members in Mozambique.
Any collaboration highlights, or stories of hope?
I love the conversations in joint-work spaces, across tables, that aren’t as easily or frequently captured. For example, people sharing GPS coordinates of potential airdrop sites, plans for joint scouting missions for shared warehouse space, and the fluidity of how different Members provide briefings to new arrivals of other agency staff is inspiring. These are just a few of the small things that often get missed but are equally important to collaboration.
What do you see as the greatest challenge to collaboration?
Our Cyclone Idai response spans three different countries, across vast geographical regions within countries. Agency staff, field offices, and response efforts are all focused in different areas with no central location or hub for activities. Collaboration on a district, country, and regional level requires multiple levels of coordination with different actors. These challenges are compounded by the limited communication networks in some areas that make remote coordination and collaboration more difficult. In Mozambique Cyclone Kenneth, the country’s second disaster within a month, is adding an additional level of complexity to humanitarian response efforts.
I understand that you will be travelling to Malawi to take part in child protection training – can you tell us about that, and what else you will be doing in Malawi?
ViVa network is offering a Child Protection in Emergencies Training (this was also offered to Integral Members in the Rohingya response). This is an opportunity for agencies, regardless of their sector specific activities, to engage in learning around child protection mainstreaming. The training provides tools, skills, and resources to integrate protection principles and best practices into their work, whether an agency works in WASH, Health, Food Security or other areas.
I will also be meeting with Integral Members in Lilongwe and Blantyre to discuss current programming, needs, resources, and opportunities to work together jointly, and providing communication support if required. I am joining World Renew on a field visit to five different IDP camps in Chikwawa in order to participate in protection risk mapping activities and collect media for communication materials.
Do you have other plans before you leave?
I am in discussion with Integral Members about providing surge support for Cyclone Kenneth, and potentially providing Psychological First Aid training to Members.
What inspires you the most about Integral?
I celebrated Easter in Mozambique this year, and was in awe of the call to serve exemplified in the diversity of Integral Members present, responding and worshipping together. Although all the Integral Members are so very different, it is our faith that unifies us and provides a common platform for us to work together.
Many years ago prior to the 2017 influx of Rohingya refugees I lived in Cox’s Bazar working with a different agency. At that time it was hard to find a network of believers and church to engage with. It was inspiring in my role as Community and Public Health Technical Advisor with World Concern to visit Cox’s Bazar in 2018 and 2019, and see Integral Members worshipping together. Similarly, in Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe it’s inspiring that the same network of believers comes together as the Church to serve together. It reminds me of Matthew 18:20 “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”.