Author Archives: marvinjrees

World Consumer Rights Day – It’s Right To Repair

Today’s guest blog comes from Councillor Steve Pearce, Cabinet Member for Waste, Commercialisation and Regulatory Services.

In 2019-20, we collected over 750 tonnes of electrical waste in Bristol. This includes everything from fluorescent light tubes and kettles, all the way up to fridges, washing machines and TVs.  To put that in perspective, that’s equivalent in weight to more than 100 adult elephants.

A large driver of this waste is a relative lack of recourse that consumers have to get manufacturers to repair items outside of their warranty period. With a complex electrical item such as a washing machine, often the costs of securing replacement parts or getting someone who has the expertise to repair the item are higher than it would be to buy a new one. And if manufacturers refuse to produce spare parts for products that they sell, customers are faced with little choice but to dispose of electrical items.

Today is World Consumer Rights Day, which calls for more awareness of consumer protections and rights from businesses and governments. To that end, I welcome the government’s recent announcement that customers will have a right to repair on goods that they buy from this summer. In addition to helping people save money by keeping their appliances for longer, the proposal will have a significant impact on the amount of electrical waste we generate – both here in Bristol and across the country.

Extending the shelf life of electronic products needs to go hand in hand with restoring and reusing as many items that we can which would otherwise be thrown away. For many years we’ve championed a proactive approach to reducing the amount of electronic waste that ends up in landfill. In June last year we opened the first Reuse shop at Avonmouth Reuse and Recycling Centre, and we’re planning to open a second shop at the new Reuse and Recycling Centre on Hartcliffe Way in South Bristol.

The store stocks goods such as TVs and vacuums along with other household items such as books and children’s toys. While the store has been closed during lockdown, the team have continued to restore items and sell them on the Bristol Waste ebay page. A third of the money made from sales goes to charity.

This movement towards a circular economy, in which we reduce waste and move towards the continual reuse of resources, is also vital if we want to realise our environmental ambitions. Management of waste in Bristol contributes around 5% of all of our most direct carbon emissions. In our One City Climate Strategy, we have set ourselves the target of ensuring that at least 65% of all ‘waste’ is repaired, recycled or re-used. To put it another way, we have to stop thinking of things we throw away as “waste” but as a potential future “resource” if we process it correctly and carefully.

By supporting people in Bristol to buy goods that will last for longer and can be repaired affordably, we can therefore not only help save households money, we can take significant steps towards making Bristol carbon-neutral by 2030.

One City – building a City of Hope

It’s nearly a year to the day when Bristol, along with the rest of the UK, first went into a national lockdown. Although it’s been extremely hard on everyone, the determination from partners around the city to get us back to some form of normality, when it’s safe to do so, is as strong as ever. Personally, I’m incredibly proud of Bristol’s response to the crisis and hearing from people at the City Gathering today underlines just how much has and is still being done to keep us moving forward.

Our focus continues to be recovery from COVID-19, keeping our population safe and working hard to rebuild. But lots of the work already started, before the pandemic hit, must continue in order to keep us on track to where we want to be by 2050. There is a long way to go, with a lot for us all to do but I can already see change happening. It’s worth us taking the time to stop and acknowledge the successes so far and be hopeful for what comes next. These City Gatherings help us do that, we all come together to plan, to discuss, and also to showcase the things that make Bristol great.

In the five years since I became Mayor, we have had ten City Gatherings. The conversations around One City started back in 2016, helping to launch a number of great initiatives such as ‘Period Friendly Bristol’ which tackles period poverty, ‘Going for Gold’ which aims to make Bristol a sustainable food city, and ‘Looking after Bristol’ which saw us partner up with Bristol Live to find the city’s next 70 foster carers.

This, the first City Gathering of 2021, saw us publish the third iteration of the One City Plan. Year on year it continues to get sharper, more detailed, and able to bring a clearer and more targeted vision across that only a collaborative approach to delivery can achieve.

Today’s agenda included an update from Christina Gray, who looked back over the last year from a public health perspective, giving us all some sobering stats from 2020. We also heard from some frontline workers which helped us understand the challenges and successes over the last 12 months from their point of view. This input from Mohammed Elsharif who is a vaccine volunteer, Hannah Black who is a teacher from Oasis Academy New Oak, and Dr Hyunkee Kim, a GP from Eastville, was really informative, giving us some great perspectives and is something we can include again at future gatherings.

We also welcomed Paul Hassan from Locality, talking about the new program ‘Many Neighbourhoods, One City’ which will share stories from every ward in Bristol. And we listened to some of the actions and recommendations from our first Citizens’ Assembly as well as hearing direct feedback from one of the 60 Bristolians who was involved in the four sessions.

All of this set us up to officially launch the latest version of our One City Plan and hear what we have achieved together over the last year, as well as putting forward the updated priorities and goals for each Board for 2021:

Goal 1 – from the Children and Young People’s Board, chosen by the Youth Council

Tackle digital exclusion through coordinated citywide action across generations, and respond to the enormous challenges and severe impact of the pandemic on children and young people

Goal 2 – from the Health and Wellbeing Board, voted for at the City Gathering

Support community assets (such as community centres / groups) to reduce social isolation and improve mental wellbeing, focusing particularly on communities with mental health inequalities

Goal 3 – from the Environment Board, voted for at the City Gathering

Citywide activity launched to engage citizens on pathways to achieving Bristol’s 2030 climate and ecological goals, in lead up to the Conference of the Parties (COP)

Bristol One City started life as a hope and aspiration of what Bristol could be in the future and even after a few short years, we have an idea of what could be. So thank you to all the speakers and the 300+ attendees that came along today, and hopefully I will see you all at the next one later in the year.

To view the latest One City Plan please go to https://www.bristolonecity.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/BD13525-One-City-Plan-2021.pdf or to find out more about the One City Approach please contact the City Office at hello@bristolcityoffice.com

All change

Today’s guest blog is from James Freeman, Managing Director, First West of England.

All change: the opportunity presented by covid-19 to make mobility around the city and the region more sustainable

As we negotiate our own roadmaps out of the pandemic, it is difficult to comprehend how much has changed over the course of just one year. But with change comes opportunity: and I believe we now have a once in a lifetime opportunity to reinvent our cities for the better and to establish sustainable and clean mobility once and for all into our urban infrastructure. 

Before lockdown, congestion and air pollution in the West of England were two of the key issues being addressed by our local authorities, with Climate Emergencies being declared by many, including Bristol.

As I write this, we are anticipating the rollout of the first Clean Air Zone (CAZ) outside London across in Bath on March 15th and, of course, the soon to follow CAZ in Bristol in October which comes hopefully just at the right time as we all start getting back to some normality .  We prepared well ahead for both of these events because as a business we have our own commitment to be zero emissions by 2035 and to stop investing in diesel vehicles by 2022. It’s now a year since we introduced virtually carbon-neutral bio-methane gas-powered buses, There are 99 of them now running clean and smooth on local routes in Bristol, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by up to 85%.  We will also have the whole of our bus fleet in Bristol and Bath retrofitted to meet the highest Euro 6 standard, which also significantly reduces exhaust emissions to improve air quality.

It’s not just Clean Air Zones that will drive change. Bus-only roads and the pedestrianisation of key areas, such as the old city in Bristol city centre, are other key moves to tackle congestion and pollution.  Through the landmark Bus Deal, which aims to double the frequency of services, we have also worked closely with both Bristol City Council and the West of England Combined Authority to develop service 2 in Bristol. The 2 is (normally!) Bristol busiest bus route, running south-east to north west across the City Centre so critical to getting people out of the car for their commute.  As a bus company, we support cycling – people might think we wouldn’t!  But cyclists are often also public transport users and certainly less likely to own and use a car.  We are working to be part of the first and last mile solution by allowing foldable bikes on to our buses.

Covid-19 also prompted the astonishingly rapid development of some clever new ideas to make things easier for the bus user including the change to the First Bus app that enables users to see where their bus actually is on the map and indeed how much space it has, and Tap and Cap which facilitates quick and safe contactless boarding whether you are paying by card, phone or Apple watch.

Through active partnership working, we will continue to support the economic, community and environmental wellbeing of the city, combining funding from local government in bus infrastructure with our own commitment to cleaner vehicles and easing congestion. It’s essential we get people back on public transport rather than reverting to the old habits of private vehicles.  We have all faced unprecedented challenges, but rather than writing off 2020 as the year that wasn’t, let’s make the most of the opportunities which have been presented to us and view it as the year that together we created a positive and long lasting transport legacy.

I have led First West of England these past six-and-half years. As I prepare to enter retirement at the end of this month and hand over to my successor Doug Claringbold, I feel both humbled and privileged to have had a role in bringing about significant change in the way that our bus services interact with local people. It’s been a huge privilege to be part of it all and I will be watching future developments with great interest as I ride off into retirement!

Supporting Bristol’s asylum seekers and refugees

Today’s guest blog comes from Beth Wilson (Bristol Refugee Rights), Layla Ismail (Refugee Women of Bristol) and Robert von Hawrylak (Borderlands), who discuss the work they have done through the support of the Bristol Impact Fund.

Photo credit: Borderlands

Bristol Asylum Seeker and Refugee Hubs is a collaboration between Bristol Refugee Rights, Refugee Women of Bristol and Borderlands, which has been funded by the Bristol Impact Fund since 2017.  Originally funding was for three drop in centre hubs which together provided 5 days a week of support services for asylum seekers and refugees: a social space, enjoying a delicious cooked meal with friends, free shop, destitution support, English classes, advice and information and much more. 

The Covid-19 pandemic forced all three drop in centres to pause as much face-to-face work had to stop, whilst they re-defined their services.  What quickly emerged was a need for financial assistance as many who had been just about surviving pre-pandemic, no longer could; a need for housing as sofa surfing / sleeping rough ceased to be an option; a need for a smart phone, as the digital divide became a chasm.  A community already suffering with poor mental health risked spiralling into despair and re-traumatisation as panic buying and being forced to stay at home reminded people of what they had fled.  Many whose mental health was just about kept in check by their regular attendance at drop in centres were at risk from deep isolation allowing their demons to creep back in. 

Working together with other refugee voluntary sector organisations in Bristol, the Hubs quickly responded to these new and emerging needs. Using their model of sharing the load of meeting needs, but also being individual organisations putting their own special take on the services they offer, the hubs designed a new model.  Bristol Impact Fund provided the flexibility and trust that these organisations knew what their service users needed thus enabling this quick shift in focus.

Borderlands focused on food, continuing to provide a weekly takeaway meal, a food bag and money to those who are destitute, deliveries to those who could not travel or are self-isolating.  Bristol Refugee Rights focused on advice and digital inclusion, ensuring individuals had help with their financial situation, finding somewhere to stay and understanding what was happening with their asylum claim, providing devices, data and tech support.  Refugee Women of Bristol recruited bilingual member volunteers to mobilise community members to find families in need of support to help them access information, specialist services, identify people at risk and provide basic support at the community level.  All of our organisations reached out by phone to those who we knew were vulnerable to check they were ok and offer them support to meet the basic needs they so desperately needed, as well as someone to talk to.

Whilst for some, remote service delivery has been challenging, for many it has been a lifeline.  The Hubs have supported people who have been in Bristol many years but chose not access face to face services.  The expansion of our services digitally has ensured continuity of reach to the wider communities and supported more individuals and families, keeping them connected with much-needed support services especially for those at risk of or experiencing domestic abuse, hate crime or other safety concerns. For Refugee Women of Bristol it has widened the safe space for women in the community to come together online to share experiences and learning, access key information including where and how to access emergency help if and when needed.

Working in partnership has given additional support to staff and made our staff and organisations more resilient to the crisis. Over the last four years, the Bristol Impact Fund has supported over 70 organisations and community groups in Bristol, aiming to reduce disadvantage and inequality, improve health and wellbeing, and increase resilience in the city. The application window for the second round of Bristol Impact Fund: Growing the Power of Communities launches next week and you can find more information here.

We Work for Everyone

Today’s guest blog is from Councillor Helen Holland, Labour Councillor for Hartcliffe and Withywood and Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care.

I was chatting to a local resident over the weekend who was telling me that his job disappeared at the beginning of the pandemic, but that he is now working as a Blood Delivery Driver. Then on one of my regular walks the other day, I saw an advertising hoarding with the fabulous #changelives campaign from BrunelCare, showing Ellie, one of their new recruits who has gone from Cabin Crew to careworker.

Two things occurred to me, one, that Covid has made everyone see what many of us already knew, that jobs in Health and Social Care are absolutely vital to us all, to our communities and to our economy, and secondly, that changing career, sometimes of necessity, sometimes by choice, really can open your eyes to new possibilities.

Working with our care providers, training organisations like the City of Bristol College, Skills for Care and the trade unions, we are determined to raise the profile of occupations in care, and make sure that we have the best workforce that we can as we move towards the post-Corona Virus world. Through our commissioning framework we are embedding our commitment to better terms and conditions for careworkers, and making sure that employees have access to training.

We also are working to strengthen community organisations who often provide the glue – through local activities, things like walking groups, choirs, knit and natter  groups  – that stick neighbourhoods together, and keep residents from isolation, and able to live in their own homes for longer.

I want to see a pathway too for people who find that they love working with people in those local organisations to open the door to care work, as one thing that is now more obvious to some, is that whatever advances there are in ‘tech enabled care’ we will always need people in these vital services.

It has been so rewarding to see that we have been able to attract more people into home care, and into social work, over the last year, and we want to see that continue.

While I am writing, I also want to mention the “We work for Everyone” project Ways to Work website for which the City Council with the other West of England authorities  have won £2.2m  from European Social Funds, and £1.2m from  WECA to deliver employment and training opportunities for people with learning disabilities and Autism.

Having worked in this field for many years myself, I am absolutely passionate about this project, and the chance for people to fulfil their potential through work. It is shocking that nationally only 5.7% of people with a learning disability are in work and we are going to do all we can to change that. We have some fantastic organisations in the city who already have a great deal of experience of doing this, with some brilliant results. I want to draw that experience into this project, to really make the best of the additional money. With navigators to support the work, we also want to hear from businesses who are keen to give everyone these opportunities, so please get in touch.

Get vaccinated

Today’s guest blog is from Ade Williams, Superintendent Pharmacist at Bedminster Pharmacy.

On 28th of January, Bedminster Pharmacy started providing COVID vaccinations at the Methodist Church on British Road. Our communities goodwill and generosity carried us through the door,  literally – especially after logistical challenges with our NHS supplies. 

Our team of volunteers, reminders of the great privilege of bringing this project into our special community. The good news is that the national vaccination programme is moving at great pace. People over 65 and those who are clinically extremely vulnerable are now being sent invitations to book online using the NHS website or calling 119. 

How quickly does the vaccine work? 

Protection starts 12-14 days after the first dose.  The second dose is crucial to get the best level of protection and longer-lasting protection, so it’s vital to come back for your second dose.

Which vaccine will I get and which is better?

You cannot choose which vaccine to have, so it’s crucial to have the vaccine you are offered. Remember whichever vaccine you are offered, has been shown to be safe and work well at preventing disease from the virus. The researches looking at effectiveness have measured them in different ways, so it isn’t necessarily helpful to compare them like for like. 

Does the vaccine contain animal products?

No. They do not contain any ingredients derived from pigs, cows or other animals.

I’m allergic to penicillin – can I have the coronavirusvaccine?

Yes, all of the available vaccines are safe if you are allergic to penicillin.

I’ve already had Covid-19, do I still need to get vaccinated?

Yes, it’s really important to get the vaccine, even if you’ve already had Covid-19. You may have some level of immunity if you’ve had the disease, but this varies and may not last long. 

Will I be able to pass on the virus to others if I’ve had the vaccine?

We don’t yet know for sure, so even after vaccination, it remains essential to follow guidelines around social distancing, hand washing and other guidance to stop the spread of coronavirus. You will also still need to self-isolate if you have symptoms or have been in contact with someone who has.

How much does the vaccine cost?

The vaccine is offered free on the NHS. It is not available privately so you can’t pay to get it sooner. Don’t fall for any scams offering it for cash.

With a 10-minute appointment journey including 3 minute contact time, we did not expect to experience such a flood of human experiences: birthday zoom calls, family pictures, tears, hugs and relief. Reminders that for many of the most vulnerable, the jab trip is their first outside for months.

Thanks to the collective effort and sacrifice making this possible. Every completed vaccination helps break down barriers, tackling hesitancy, bringing closer a time to meet with family and friends. The Bedminster Pharmacy’s ambition is to work with others; our GP surgeries and other NHS Clinicians to make it sooner. When your time comes, we will be ready for you too.

Fairtrade Fortnight

Today’s guest blog is from Joe Fortune, General Secretary of the Co-operative Party.

We in the co-operative movement have an amazing story to tell about our adoption and leadership within UK Fairtrade over many decades. Over the years, I have spent time looking back through old copies of Co-operative Party and movement pamphlets and articles, which all lay out in black and white (and it was black and white, no colour printing!) the efforts and commitment of those activists we sit on the shoulders of. However, the Co-operative Party and movement’s commitment to Fairtrade is not, and must never be, something we only look back on. It must be something we live, day in and day out. 

Fairtrade Fortnight is an opportunity to renew that zeal, and to spread the message of hope and optimism which characterises Fairtrade. Fairtrade is our values and principles in practice. Within it lies the essence of our approach to politics and society. I’m proud that the last year has seen the Co-operative Party bring practical campaigning weight to the continued fight for Fairtrade. 

This year, our representatives in Westminster have pushed for Fairtrade to be properly considered through new trade deals. Our Parliamentary Group Chair and Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for International Development, Preet Gill, has led the charge for proper financial support for this country’s international development efforts, and for a focus to be on co-operative development. Preet also led our efforts to persuade a major chocolate retailer to reverse its decision to walk away from the use of Fairtrade. This effort saw tens of thousands of people join the campaign and re-affirmed, in my mind, our movement’s unwavering support for the efforts of the Fairtrade Foundation.  

We all hold consumer power in the products we choose and support each day. I would encourage everyone to exercise this power to choose those products and lines which hold the Fairtrade mark. Still today, we uphold the historic co-operative movement commitment to Fairtrade. We are proud of the efforts of our retail co-operatives and others who continue to lead the way and champion the proliferation of Fairtrade in this country and around the world. 

Find out more about Fairtrade Fortnight, this year’s focus on climate change, and the work of the Fairtrade Foundation here: Fairtrade Fortnight | Fairtrade Foundation

A culture of inclusion

Today’s guest blog is from Lynn Barlow, co-chair of the One City Culture Board and Assistant Vice-Chancellor for Creative and Cultural Industries Engagement at UWE Bristol.

I love television, I love films, I am in awe of anyone who can stand in front of an audience and sing, dance, act, make me laugh or make me cry.

But I can also honestly say, I have never talked about TV as much in my life – and as a TV producer, I have always spent more than an average amount of my time talking about it… much more.

Now, ‘have you seen’, ‘did you watch’, ‘you have to watch this, it’s great’, seem to be the basis for so many of my lockdown conversations with friends. 

We are all clutching at the few shared experiences of creativity and culture we can still enjoy – like a comfort blanket, they are something to make us feel better and remind us that we need culture, we need creativity – we need entertainment. Its power is incredible.

We’ve seen performances and productions postponed, live and in-person experiences cancelled and museums, theatres, festivals and events all disappear since the spring of 2020. This hasn’t just put a strain on the creative economy in the city – but on the potential to express who we are as a city – our spirit.  

The three national lockdowns have severely limited the re-opening and recovery of the sector – the impact of the pandemic will be felt for several years to come as small and independent businesses look to rebuild. 

Creative industries have the power to drive us out of this extraordinary moment in time. They can and do revitalise our places, ignite economic growth and unlock innovation as well as bringing joy to our communities. 

The Creative Industries sector contributes almost £13 million to the UK economy every hour, or at least it did at the beginning of 2020.

That’s why Bristol’s One City Culture Board has committed to making sure our artists, musicians, producers, writers, directors and performers emerge from the pandemic with a flourishing future. And that the places, the venues, large and small survive and can recover.

But they cannot, nor should not, be looking to rebuild alone. One of the first areas of focus for the One City Culture Board has been contributing to the development of Bristol’s Recovery and Renewal Strategy.

The emphasis on both ‘recovery’ and ‘renewal’ is key. Bristol is rebuilding its cultural sector, but it is also moving to a time of renewal.  

Our collective strength, our collective talents and our collective ambition is needed to help us through this. That is why the Board’s membership strives to reflect the breadth and diversity of the sector it represents. 

Every single one of us has creative potential – no matter who they are, where they live, or how much money they have, creative people are everywhere – but not everyone has the opportunity to discover it.

Culture and Creativity has never been as important to our personal wellbeing, to the wellbeing of all our communities and the wellbeing of our city.

I admire how organisations have been able to pivot to offer new experiences in a new virtual world and long may that option continue to be available. But I also cannot wait to be able to soak up my cultural experiences, face-to-face or sitting in an audience or walking around a museum, no longer restricted to what I can only see on a small screen.

Heart Unions

Today’s guest blog is from Steve Preddy, Regional Secretary of Unite the Union.

I believe all of us, reflecting on the profound difficulties faced throughout the past year, yearn for the potential of brighter opportunities and renewed hope as 2021 unfolds. The COVID-19 vaccines provides the best reason for genuine hope that there will be a return to a new “normality” perhaps later this year.

Something that both sustains and inspires me during these extraordinary times, is the dedication shown by our amazing team here in Unite South West. Primarily our incredible volunteer army of Lay Representatives both Industrial Work Place and Health & Safety representatives. Every day they make a positive difference to thousands of members in the union.  It is to that unwavering dedication and hard work that makes it so important to celebrate trade unions and our collective achievements during Hearts’ Union Week.

Tackling the worst kind of employer behaviours is at the heart of Unite’s Fighting Back strategy. Fire and Rehire is one example of an abhorrent practice. Unite won in British Airways Cargo handling, we are fighting Go North Buses. Unite undertook the incredible Rolls Royce Barnoldswick campaign to save the site and jobs. Campaigns won by organising in workplaces and their communities.

Unite the Union Representatives, Officers and staff consistently provide every support to our members, with the most comprehensive range of services and support available through the trade union movement. Very importantly this past year, I pay tribute to the work of Health and Safety Reps in making sure employers provide proper PPE for key workers and carry out proper risk assessments in workplaces. Where employers fail in terms of maintaining a safe working environment section 44 of the Employment Rights Act has been deployed. This was used extensively and successfully by Unite on a number of occasions this past year and by our colleagues in the NEU, which in turn brought about a further government U turn on school closures.

I hope all people now realise that key workers, whether caring for our loved ones in the NHS and Care Homes or serving among the masses in shops, or those operating our buses, have been undervalued and underpaid for years.  All these people deserve to be paid a respectful living wage and Unite will not cease campaigning for this, until it happens. In our NHS we support the campaign around a 15%  increase in pay, in part recognition of their sacrifice and because of their ongoing contribution to the health and wellbeing of our entire nation.

Unite the union was instrumental in the negotiations with Ministers that directly led to the introduction of the Job Retention Scheme- a scheme not perfect, but which directly saved so many jobs.  Unite calls on the Government to extend job retention beyond March, including targeted help for particularly vulnerable sectors of the economy like Civil Air Transport, hospitality, manufacturing and many others. They need to make an announcement of intent to do so now.  This will provide reassurance to our members who are currently on furlough, that they will not be facing redundancy in the spring & summer and stop employers shedding thousands of workers’ jobs. 

The battle to save jobs is vital, not just for the viability of the UK economy but for the health and wellbeing of workers and families. We know the cost of unemployment in terms of lost income, worry over bills and expenses, the disruptive damage to family and community cohesion  and the impact that it will have on the social fabric of people’s lives right across the South West region. This will be disproportionately felt by the poor, vulnerable, by women and children and by those in the BAME communities.  

Unite has devised a membership package that will maintain membership in Unite at no cost to the individual. The Union Funded Scheme is already retaining tens of thousands of members in our Unite family, those impacted by loss of employment through the Covid crisis and Brexit double header.

Unite also provides access to support, advice and training for members who have lost their jobs.  Trade unions came into existence to support working class families.  Unite maintains the tradition not to  leave members facing  difficulties alone. Though our Back2Work membership and services support, we help them on the difficult path back into work.

If you want to find out more about the important work of Unite the union go to – www.unitetheunion.org  If you are not already a member of a trade union-  I hope you will join us.

Please Stay Safe.

Beira hit by Cyclone Eloise

Beira, Mozambique’s second city, after being hit by Cyclone Eloise. Photo credit: BBC/EPA.

In today’s blog I want to raise awareness of and ask you to join me in showing solidarity with our Mozambican twin city who are experiencing yet another cyclone likely due to the drastic impact of climate change

It was with a heavy heart that I followed the weather map path of Cyclone Eloise as it made its way to Beira, our Mozambican twin city on the 23rd January. The messages coming through from my friend Mayor Simango spoke of roofs blown off, walls down, windows out, electricity lines down, 100mph winds, 300mm of rainfall in 24 hours, and so it went on. The Mayor’s team and relief agencies moved thousands of Beira residents into stronger buildings such as schools, as the huge purpose-built drainage channels overflowed and the flood basins filled up, no chance of pumping the water out to sea for days due to the storm surges in the tide. Sadly six people lost their lives, mainly due to falling rubble.

As the cyclone and subsequent rainfall moved far inland, a picture emerged of over 7,500 Beira citizens made homeless and moving into temporary refugee camps. Across the whole trajectory of the cyclone, 262,000 people including 130,000 children were affected and needing humanitarian assistance. 16,700 Mozambicans have lost their homes with 74 health centres and 322 classrooms destroyed. UNICEF and the International Red Cross are on the case and the UK Government has pledged £1 million for the temporary camps. Teams were deployed to Beira before Cyclone Eloise hit and are now distributing prepositioned basic household and hygiene items, water purification kits, tarpaulins and medicine for up to 20,000 people in the city and province. The potential outbreak of waterborne diseases like diarrhoea and cholera is a major concern in flooded areas. The British High Commission in Maputo, Mozambique’s capital, reported that a UK humanitarian team is on the ground in Beira involving support from the University of Bristol.

“Beira is a cyclone corridor”, said Mayor Simango, “and we are still recovering from Cyclone Idai from March 2019. “Part of our recovery has included the construction of designated flood plains, basins and drainage channels to take excess water out to sea, combined with community education, which reduced the impact of the 100mph winds of Cyclone Eloise, and the lesser Cyclone Chalane last month. “This time we need the International community along with our Dutch and German government partners to step up and support our Beira plan for a flood mitigation infrastructure programme.”

This is another tragic reminder of the devastating effects that the Climate Emergency has on the world’s poorest countries and those least responsible for causing it.

I have also taken up a position representing the UK on the Executive Committee of the Commonwealth local Government Forum and I am aiming to contribute to practical proposals for Ccommonwealth cities (including in Mozambique) to work with national governments to put in place governance and finance to be resilient to shocks and disasters such as these. Bristol continues to work with UK Core Cities and other international networks of cities to ensure that the voices of cities are heard as nation states make decisions on targets and actions to tackle climate change.

If you would like to donate to the Bristol Link with Beira for their COVID and Cyclone support work then please go to  https://www.gofundme.com/f/bristol-beira-covid19-appeal

And if you would like to get involved with their longer term work check out their website https://bristolbeiralink.org/ and Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/bristolbeiralink/