Published Tuesday, 09 October 2012
I looked into the elderly lady's eyes and they brimmed with pain. I smiled at her, hoping to see one in return - but then I realised her mouth literally would not go there.
Solomon and his wife live in one of the most remote communities imaginable - accessible only by a lengthy boat ride along the vast Zambezi delta. He told me he'd lost count of the number of times cyclones had struck - stealing their home and much of their lives.
This time last week, I was stepping into their world ... I was in Mozambique with Concern - visiting some of the poorest communities they work with. We travelled for days to meet these people and I began to realise that, in Mozambique, many journeys feel like they have no end.
But then that's almost the point - because when you do finally arrive in these little villages, the welcome you receive is so incredibly beautiful. They dance, they laugh, they beat their drums - old and young caught up together in a colourful melee. It was a scene that, each time it happened, I wanted to be able to bottle.
Mozambique is a country trying to write a new story for itself. Its bloody civil war - which claimed one million lives - ended 20 years ago. Now economic growth is possible, aided by the discovery of natural gas and petroleum. The country's capital Maputa is booming. But all too predictably, the poor are being left behind.
Hunger has the country in its grip - almost one in two children in some regions suffer stunting of the brain because they are chronically malnourished. This is Mozambique's emergency and it's one which Concern is fighting through a whole raft of projects.
And simple solutions are clearly improving lives. A store house for rice in one community is saving 60% of their crop being eaten by rats. A dyke in another is hopefully going to protect them from the worst excesses of flooding next year, while vegetables from a garden project in another community is allowing people to sell at market in the province's capital for the very first time.
Small steps - that seem almost too late for people like Solomon - but steps which may mean some of the incredible children we met may get to enjoy a future they don't even realise they deserve.
And you can hear some more about my visit to Mozambique on UTV Live at Six, with full reports to come on Tuesday and Wednesday's UTV Live Tonight.
© UTV News