Life in Mozambique continues in the midst of reconstruction

PHOTO: Paul Brennan/Pixabay

Text: Elina Karimaa, Hanna-Kaisa Sainio ja Saana Raittila

In March 2019, a devastating tropical Cyclone, Idai, hit central Mozambique, and only a month later another cyclone, named Kenneth, landed in the north of the country. Regardless of the prolonged crisis ahead, after May 2019 the mainstream media in Finland went quiet. Now, over one year later, the situation in Mozambique continues to be difficult.

Cyclone Idai reached the coastal city of Beira and its neighbouring towns in central Mozambique on the 14th of March 2019. Described as one of the most destructive storms ever to hit Mozambique, Idai had a death toll of 603, displaced more than 160 000 people and left 2.5 million Mozambicans in need of humanitarian aid. Most damage was caused by severe flooding due to heavy rains and a storm surge over four meters high that followed the cyclone. In addition to Mozambique, the neighbouring countries Zimbabwe, Malawi and Madagascar were severely affected.

Cyclone Kenneth, that hit the northern province of Cabo Delgado six weeks later, made history, as it was the first time on record that two tropical cyclones had made landfall in Mozambique in the same season.

Cyclone Kenneth, that hit the northern province of Cabo Delgado six weeks later, made history, as it was the first time on record that two tropical cyclones had made landfall in Mozambique in the same season. The consequences were devastating. Kenneth caused further flooding and mudslides, and 45 people lost their lives. The economic impact of Cyclone Idai alone, including damages to buildings, infrastructure and agriculture and loss of livelihoods, has been estimated at almost 3 billion US dollars – without accounting for the adverse effects on people’s health and well-being.

The storms raised concern about the impacts of climate change. The climate in Mozambique has turned warmer in recent decades (0,6 °C in 1960-2006) and has been accompanied by less frequent but rougher rains, thus worsening both droughts and floods. The warming ocean seems to also be fuelling more intense cyclones. As a low-income developing country, Mozambique is considered one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change. Rebuilding the country after Idai and Kenneth has given the opportunity to build resilience against the difficulties to come. However, many are still struggling to get on their feet after the disasters.

Thousands of children under five years of age are diagnosed with severe acute malnutrition because of the lost harvests.

While the central and northern parts of the country have been afflicted by the cyclones, the south of the country has suffered from a severe drought affecting agriculture and food security, and an estimated 1.6 million people don’t have enough to eat. Thousands of children under five years of age are diagnosed with severe acute malnutrition because of the lost harvests. According to the World Food Programme, food portions are being regulated. The lack of sanitation facilities has led to diarrheal diseases, such as cholera.

During the last year, only emergency actions were carried out, like construction of shelters and temporary housing, securing a water supply, school and health infrastructures and roads. Also, many of the over four hundred aid organisations providing aid in the emergency left the country before the recovery process.

Many problems have been pointed out during the recovery phase. The resettlement was too fast and poorly planned, the shelters were inadequate and insecure, there was lack of information, inappropriate communication methods and poor monitoring activities in addition to limited knowledge of disabilities.

Only about one thousand people with disabilities received aid during the first month after the cyclone, which is merely one per cent of the affected.

Only about one thousand people with disabilities received aid during the first month after the cyclone, which is merely one per cent of the affected. Many felt discriminated against at the centres, were physically unable to access aid or simply excluded. For example, in ‘food for assets’ programmes, people are required to work to receive food. Some participants received construction materials they could not use because of physical limitations and lack of technical knowledge.

The overcrowded centres with limited privacy were an extra concern to people with disabilities. Many did not receive the needed assistance, far away from the specialised services they normally use, like physiotherapy and rehabilitation, although some thousand children did receive psycho-social care.

As a positive outcome of Cyclone Idai, there has been a clear increase in the visibility of people with disabilities.

As a positive outcome of Cyclone Idai, there has been a clear increase in the visibility of people with disabilities. Some feel better off in resettlement sites because of the aid and plots of farming land distributed, although many lack the financial means or assistance needed. Finally, recovering and building resilience is slow because of constant new shocks. More funding is needed for the recovery work and to confront future natural disasters.

Did you know that the Student Union of the University of Helsinki (HYY) has a development cooperation project in Mozambique? The project helps girls and disabled youth at risk of dropping out of school to stay in school through organizing extracurricular classes and life skills training for 250 students in four schools in the city of Pemba, Cabo Delgado – in one of the provinces in Mozambique most struggling to provide basic education to all.

More information:

GFDRR. Mozambique Cyclone Idai Post Disaster Needs Assessment, May 2019.
https://www.gfdrr.org/en/publication/mozambique-cyclone-idai-post-disaster-needs-assessment-full-report-2019

The World Bank. Mozambique: Cyclone Idai & Kenneth Emergency Recovery and Resilience Project, 8 September 2019.
http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/727131568020768626/pdf/Project-Information-Document-Mozambique-Cyclone-Idai-Kenneth-Emergency-Recovery-and-Resilience-Project-P171040.pdf

UNICEF. “One year after Cyclone Idai, 2.5 million people in Mozambique remain in need of humanitarian assistance”, 13 March 2020.
https://www.unicef.org/press-releases/one-year-after-cyclone-idai-25-million-people-mozambique-remain-need-humanitarian

UNICEF & Light for the World. Aid out of reach, December 2019.
https://www.unicef.org/mozambique/en/reports/aid-out-reach

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