From Cyclone to Food Crisis: Ensuring the needs of women and girls are prioritized in the Cyclone Idai and Kenneth responses


After the double tragedy and devastation of Cyclone Idai in March 2019 and Cyclone Kenneth six weeks later, the people of Mozambique now face yet another crisis: a food security crisis.

At least 433,056 households have had their land and crops partially or totally destroyed. COSACA – the humanitarian agencies group consisting of Oxfam, CARE and Save the Children – are concerned that current food insecurity is just a prelude to spiralling levels of hunger. Funding is urgently needed for emergency food assistance and support to help affected women, men and children to rebuild their lives.


Mozambique provides a devastating demonstration of what the climate emergency means to individuals: thousands of homes wrecked, lives devastated, livelihoods lost. Shockingly, Cyclone Idai and Cyclone Kenneth are not the only climate-related disasters to have hit the country – drought and floods over the last 12 months have also taken their toll, and the impact of 2019’s El Niño is already being felt.

In every disaster – in both rich and poor countries – people in poverty are the most vulnerable and hardest hit. In cities like Beira, which was severely affected by Cyclone Idai, people living in poverty live in poorly constructed shelters, in areas more susceptible to floods. Wealthier people have houses with concrete walls, stronger roofs and built on higher ground – it is easier for them to leave when a crisis is forecast.

Of the more than 2.2 million people in need in Mozambique following Cyclones Idai and Kenneth, women and girls face particular protection challenges in the wake of the two cyclones. For example, they are often at a greater distance from water collection points, sanitation facilities and health centres, which may be in unsafe locations, exposing them to additional protection threats such as sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). With the destruction of health facilities, pregnant women have limited access to support for delivering their babies safely. It is estimated that more than 75,000 cyclone-affected women are pregnant, with more than 45,000 live births expected in the next six months; 7,000 of those could experience life-threatening complications. Girls are more likely to miss out on school following the damage wrought to schools and learning materials following the cyclones. Though their vulnerabilities are both extensive and multi-sectoral, funding to address the complex needs of women and girls falls far short.

Donors must commit to fully funding the gender appeal of the Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) at a minimum, and should invest in wider opportunities for stand-alone gender programming in the response, utilizing the skills of local partners and particularly women’s rights organizations.

Overall, funding to the UN’s Mozambique humanitarian appeal and the response at large remains far below target, with the response only 39% funded – leaving some of the most vulnerable communities without the support they need to rebuild their lives. Therefore, this next phase of the response is not just about rebuilding infrastructure, but about targeting funding to help people lift themselves out of crisis and increase their resilience by delivering livelihood opportunities – to truly ensure that no one is left behind.