OVERVIEW OF THE CRISIS
In March and April 2019, Mozambique was hit by two consecutive tropical cyclones that left a trail of death, damage and destruction in their paths. In March, the Tropical Cyclone Idai weather system’s impact came in three waves: in early March, the low pressure system caused flooding in Zambezia and Tete; on 14 March, Cyclone Idai made landfall near the port City of Beira – home to 500,000 people – tearing roofs off homes and buildings; finally, over the weekend of 16-17 March, the weather system carried torrential rains across multiple areas, causing rivers to overflow and leaving people stranded on trees and houses. On 25 April, Tropical Cyclone Kenneth made landfall in Cabo Delgado province, flattening entire villages. Overall, it is estimated that close to 2.2 million need urgent assistance following the cyclones and floods (374,000 people from Cyclone Kenneth and 1.85 million people from Cyclone Idai), on top of 815,000 people already in need as a result of the drought.
The Tropical Cyclone Kenneth and Idai weather systems brought destruction and damage to Cabo Delgado, Sofala, Manica, Zambezia and Tete provinces, killing at least 648 people (45 deaths due to Cyclone Kenneth and at least 603 deaths due to Cyclone Idai), injuring nearly 1,700 and leaving an estimated 2.2 million people in need of urgent humanitarian assistance and protection. Although the death tolls are yet to be disaggregated, women are more likely to die in natural disasters than men. The Cyclone Idai weather system’s impact came in three waves: in early March, the low pressure system caused flooding in Zambezia and Tete in early March, displacing more than 140,000 people; on 14 March, Cyclone Idai made landfall near the port city of Beira – home to 500,000 people – tearing roofs off homes and buildings and leaving death and destruction in its wake; finally, over the weekend of 16-17 March, the weather system carried torrential rains across multiple areas, causing rivers to overflow, and leaving people stranded on trees and houses. Then, on 24 April, Cyclone Kenneth made landfall in the Macomia district of Cabo Delgado, flattening entire communities in its path.
This is the first time in recorded history that two strong tropical cyclones (above Category 2) have made landfall in Mozambique in the same season, and the first time that a cyclone has made landfall as far north as Kenneth. The cyclones devastated two distinct swathes of the country.
Cyclone Idai hit the central region of Mozambique, leaving an estimated 3,000km2 of land submerged and damaging more than 240,000 houses. Subsequently, Cyclone Kenneth struck the northern region, destroying more than 45,300 houses. This came on top of drought in other areas of country, as well as violence in parts of Cabo Delgado.
The cyclones have compounded an already serious food insecurity situation in Mozambique. From September to December 2018, an estimated 1.78 million people (IPC phase 3 and above) were severely food insecure in the country, 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. Of these, an estimated 814,700 severely food insecure people in five provinces – Cabo Delgado, Gaza, Inhambane, Sofala and Tete - were prioritized as being in most urgent need of assistance, with the most affected provinces being Tete (more than 359,300 people) and Gaza (more than 318,200 people). Following Cyclone Idai’s landfall, more than 715,000 hectares of crops were destroyed, while Cyclone Kenneth affected nearly 55,500 hectares of crops and caused loss of livelihoods, including fishing. Both of the cyclones made landfall during the critical harvest period, effectively wiping out the food the Cyclones. of thousands of families, prolonging an already difficult lean season and leaving many without the prospect of another full harvest until March 2020. All communities in Manica and 80 per cent in Sofala have reported harvesting less than half of their maize due to Cyclone Idai.
Both Cyclone Idai and Cyclone Kenneth caused significant displacement and protection concerns. Many children, elderly and people with disabilities were unable to flee to safety and more than half of the affected people are children.
The cyclones significantly exacerbated protection risks, including sexual and gender-based violence, loss of personal documentation, and issues related to land and property rights. Already, in October 2018, families in Gaza, Inhambane and Sofala were adopting crisis strategies (17 per cent) and emergency strategies (13 per cent) due to drought, including selling productive assets and animals and taking children out of school to perform household chores, including fetching water. After the cyclones, many families lost everything – their homes, their livelihoods and family members – heightening the risks of their resorting to negative coping strategies – including child labour, child trafficking and forced marriage - to survive in the months ahead. Some children have lost their parents, while others were separated from their families as they sought to reach safety.
Access to safe water was compromised by both Cyclone Idai and Cyclone Kenneth, particularly for displaced people living in collective centres, as well as people in areas where water supply was cut. Even prior to the crisis, only half of Mozambicans had access to improved water supply and only one in five use improved sanitation facilities. Most households impacted by flooding during Cyclone Idai lost access to safe sanitation, with latrines overflowing and homes destroyed. People who sought refuge in collective centres – usually schools and churches – were living in overcrowded and congested conditions with limited access to safe water.
Meanwhile, tens of thousands of people living in Cyclone Kenneth-affected areas lost access to water, including due to power cuts in key urban centres, such as Macomia, Mucojo and Quissanga towns. Each of these factors significantly heightened the risk of disease outbreaks, including cholera and malaria. Meanwhile, women and girls have been forced to walk longer distances to access clean water and firewood, exposing them to heightened risk of gender-based violence.
Cyclone Kenneth and Cyclone Idai caused major damage to health facilities, with at least 62 health centres damaged or destroyed. The emergency room of the Beira Central Hospital was extensively damaged during Cyclone Idai’s landfall, rendering it non-functional in the aftermath of the storm.
At the same time, community health centres lost access to supply chains for drugs, with damaged medicine being lost and were unable to open due to flooding. It is estimated that 67,000 women impacted by Cyclone Idai are reportedly pregnant, of whom 60 per cent (19,000) were expected to give birth in the three months following landfall. Meanwhile, over 7,000 pregnant women are estimated to be at risk of unsafe childbirth in areas affected by Cyclone Kenneth. The majority of these women were attending pre-natal clinics in health centres which have been destroyed or damaged. HIV prevalence in Mozambique is among the highest globally, and this disaster is expected to increase the risk of transmission as well as to jeopardise access to care for people living with HIV. In Sofala province, which bore the brunt of Cyclone Idai, at least one in six adults are HIV positive. In Buzi, several women and girls who reported having sex for money noted that more money is typically offered if they do not use condoms, exposing them to heightened risk of sexually transmitted disease.
Cyclone Kenneth and Cyclone Idai and the preceding drought are occurring in a context of chronic undernutrition.
Prior to Cyclone Idai, five districts were expected to face IPC Acute Malnutrition phase 2 or above during the 2018-2019 lean season: Balama in Cabo Delgado; Marara in Tete province; Milange in Zambezia province and Macossa in Manica province. Each of the causes of acute malnutrition in these districts - including 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 – have been exacerbated by the drought and floods. Results from the annual food security and nutrition analysis (SETSAN) prior to Cyclone Kenneth already showed a concerning food security and nutrition situation in five districts in the north of Cabo Delgado province linked to conflict and violence: Macomia,
Mocimboa da Praia, Nangade, Palma and Quissanga. This includes two of the districts – Macomia and Quissanga – hardest-hit by Cyclone Kenneth.
Both drought and floods have negatively impacted children’s well-being and their access to education. The government reports that Cyclone Kenneth damaged at least 480 classrooms, affecting close to 42,000 children. Meanwhile,
Cyclone Idai damaged more than 2,800 classrooms. In addition, many children have been displaced away from their homes and schools, and many schools were initially used as collective centres for the displaced, rendering them non-functional for educational purposes. Although school has resumed in most of the affected areas, many classrooms are still damaged and in need of immediate repair and rehabilitation. In the drought-affected areas, poor concentration in class due to hunger and thirst was reported and shortage of water led to migration of the most vulnerable rural families, causing their children to drop out of school.
There are also reports of significant psychosocial support needs amongst children following the cyclones.
Extensive damage to key roads and bridges, has compromised people’s access to services and basic supplies.
The impact of cyclones Kenneth and Idai resulted in many people being unable to move freely due to the persistence of flood waters and damaged road networks. Key roads in each of the affected areas were cut for significant periods.
After Cyclone Idai, for example, the N6 was cut, leaving Beira City cut-off and disabling a key supply route in the country. In Nhamatanda, people were isolated between the Zimbabwean border and the flood-affected areas. Food prices reportedly rose by more than 100 per cent in some affected areas and transport costs in the limited accessible areas have either doubled or tripled. Poor families, who lost everything in the floods, were unable to purchase basic items. After Cyclone Kenneth, the roads to Metuge town, Mucojo Sede in Macomia, and other areas were inaccessible. The isolation of communites increases the risk of sexual exploitation and abuse, as boys, girls and families become desperate for livesaving resources such as food, shelter and water. It is critical that the response reduces the risk of exploitation.
The humanitarian situation 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. Both Cyclones Kenneth and Idai are expected to exacerbate this situation, as 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. 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- has been hard-hit by Cyclone Idai.
This revised Humanitarian Response Plan will enable response to the most immediate and life-saving needs arising from Cyclone Idai over a three month period, along with sustained response to the pre-existing needs in drought-affected areas. It will also allow partners to immediately kick-start crucial recovery actions to begin restoring livelihoods and self-reliance, which will continue beyond the three-month horizon. Over the coming three months, the humanitarian community will review the situation, with the Government, to determine next steps, while simultaneously engaging with development partners to urge rapid action to tackle the longer-term issues resulting from the storm, including reconstruction and recovery
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.