Please note this Plan has been revised following Cyclone Idai. Click here to see the revised Plan.
Overview of the crisis
Mozambique is facing significant pockets of severe food insecurity, mainly due to poor rainfall and the fall army worm (FAW) invasion, which have contributed to reduced crop production, particularly of maize. The drought is also causing increased levels of malnutrition, water scarcity and school drop-outs, as well as heightening the risk of communicable diseases and of exacerbating HIV rates.
Mozambique experiences natural hazards every year, particularly given its geographical location (the country is located downstream of nine international river basins and has a long Indian Ocean coastline with active cyclone activity) and the social and economic vulnerability of the population. Drought occurs primarily in the southern region, with a frequency of seven droughts every 10 years. The recurrence of these climatic shocks in shorter cycles has negated efforts to reduce vulnerability across many communities.
The 2017-2018 rainy season was characterised by a late start, extended mid-season dry spell (DecemberJanuary) and heavy rains. Although the 2017-2018 rainy season performed better than the 2015-16 El Niño episode, the dry spell resulted in moisture stress and wilting of early planted crops in many areas. This has caused below average agricultural yield, particularly in southern and some central parts of Mozambique. Although the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security affirms that there is enough food availability at the aggregate level, the country is facing significant pockets of food insecurity, mainly due to the poor rainfall performance and the fall army worm (FAW) invasion that contributed to reduced crop production, particularly of maize. According to the FAW early warning system (FAMEWS), the infestation level in Mozambique is estimated to be between 21 to 40 per cent and the high likelihood of an El Niño event could contribute to the multiplication of the pest, given its high reproductivity in dry conditions.
Climatic predictions for the 2018-2019 rainfall season indicate normal to below normal rainfall for the southern and central regions, and normal to above normal rainfall for the northern region, according to the National Institute for Meteorology (INAM). As of 3 December, the likelihood of an El Niño had been revised to at least 80 per cent during the period between November 2018 to March 2019, according to the official El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) forecast. This poses a high risk for the Mozambique 2018-2019 cropping season, especially in already drought-affected southern and parts of central regions. Households in these areas will likely be forced to plant multiple times after repeated attempts, resulting in crop failures, as well as depletion of household seed stocks.
An estimated 814,700 people in five provinces are facing the most severe levels of food insecurity (IPC 3 and above) and need life-saving assistance during the lean season. The most affected provinces are Cabo Delgado, Inhambane, Gaza, Sofala, and Tete. Gaza province, for example, has nearly 22 percent of its population – more than 318,000 people - affected by the crisis. Tete, Inhambane, Sofala and Cabo Delgado reported together almost 500,000 people in IPC phase 3. This population is a prioritised subset of the overall number of severely food insecure people in 11 provinces, which is estimated at 1.78 million people (IPC phase 3 and above) for the period of September to December 2018, according to the Integrated Phase Classification (IPC) analysis and the food security and nutrition assessment conducted by the Technical Secretariat for Food Security and Nutrition (SETSAN) in October 2018.
The impact of rising food insecurity is compounded by high levels of poverty, as well as the Government’s limited fiscal space to respond effectively. Despite a downward trend in the incidence of poverty over the years, the number of poor people remains high and inequality is growing. Almost half of the population (46.3 per cent) continues to be poor in monetary and non-monetary terms; with 84.9 per cent living in rural areas. Recent poverty analysis conducted in Mozambique shows that cyclone, flood or drought can lead to a drop of up to 25 to 30 per cent in per capita food consumption and that affected households also cut back on expenditures in basic non-food items.
Agricultural production is likely to diminish, particularly in areas where there is a risk of low rainfall and likelihood of increased incidence of pests and diseases. The rain-dependent agricultural sector, which accounts for around 25 per cent of Mozambique’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and employs nearly 75 per cent of the labour force, is highly vulnerable to drought and other natural hazards, with an estimated loss of US$20 million per year, according to the World Bank. Nearly 94 per cent of the poor are primarily engaged in agriculture for their subsistence. Based on the initial analysis from the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security (MASA), the crop water needs index is reportedly low in seven provinces, including in Inhambane and Gaza areas in the southern region. In the first quarter of 2019, significant improvement is expected in the northern and central regions, with the exception of Tete province (reporting low index), while the southern region is expected to show between low and very low index, particularly in Inhambane and Gaza. There are already some indications in Gaza province of families reliant on small livestock moving to forest areas in search of green pasture and water, increasing the risk of conflict with wild animals. For December 2018 to April 2019, the Technical Secretariat for Food and Nutrition Security (SETSAN) has prioritised 815,000 people in five provinces for immediate humanitarian assistance. For January to March 2019, it is projected that the population in need will slightly reduce to 737,000 people, assuming that the crop water index will be adequate and a green harvest will take place in February 2019.
An estimated 19,500 children in nine districts are expected to suffer from Acute Malnutrition during the next six-month period, according to the IPC Acute Malnutrition analysis conducted in April 2018 by SETSAN. Five districts will be in IPC Acute Malnutrition (AMN) phase 2 or above during the 2018-2019 lean season. Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) is expected to increase from acceptable to alert/serious levels (IPC phase 2 and 3) with GAM rates between 6 to 10.9 per cent, particularly in Balama, Cabo Delgado, Marara in Tete province, Milange in Zambezia province and Macossa in Manica province, largely due to: low quality and quantity of infant feeding; increased occurrence of childhood diseases, such as diarrhoea and malaria; low coverage of health and sanitation services; and low access to safe water sources. Results from the SETSAN analysis have shown a critical food security and nutrition situation in five districts in the north of Cabo Delgado province linked to conflict and violence: Quissanga, Macomia, Mocimboa da Praia, Nangade and Palma.
Families are expected to adopt negative stress coping strategies in almost all of the affected provinces, heightening protection risks, particularly for women and children, according to preliminary indications in the October 2018 SETSAN report. The most severe cases are in Gaza, Inhambane and Sofala, where families are already adopting crisis strategies (17 per cent) and emergency strategies (13 per cent) respectively, including: selling of productive assets and animals; and taking children out of school to perform household chores, including fetching water, and begging. In the past – including during the 2015-2017 El Nino - rising food insecurity has heightened the risk of child labour, child trafficking and forced marriage. Past anecdotal evidence suggests that the age of sexual debut lowered to 11- or 12-years during drought, with older men engaging with girls aged 11 to 13 as they went about water collection activities.
Drought continues to negatively impact children’s well-being and their access to education, often leading to student absenteeism, poor concentration in class due to hunger and thirst, and ultimately contributing to a decrease in children’s learning outcomes. Shortage of water leads to migration of the most vulnerable rural families and consequently their children drop out of school.
Access to safe water is also a challenge, including due to drought.Only half of Mozambicans have access to improved water supply and only one in five use improved sanitation facilities. There is a large disparity between urban (80 per cent) and rural water supply coverage (35 per cent), and only an estimated 40 per cent of rural schools have water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities for learners and teachers. Unimproved sanitation has been linked to poor maternal health, with 90 per cent of underweight mothers having access to only unimproved sanitation. Diminished rainfall has heightened challenges to accessing safe water. The storage level of the Pequenos Libombos dam, located in Maputo province, was only 22.6 per cent as of 29 November 2018. Pequenos Libombos dam supplies the cities of Maputo, Matola and Boane and has not been above 50 per cent since the severe drought in 2016. However, water resources authorities expect that by March 2019 the storage level of the dam may increase and reach 50 per cent of its capacity, based on available forecasts. At the peak of the lean season in drought-affected areas it is expected that around 296,000 people will need some form of WASH intervention, as localised water stress levels will impact the waiting time at water points as well as longer return distances for water trucking.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.