Humanitarian aid for vulnerable populations suffering the effects of drought in Mozambique

Situation Report
Originally published


Location of operation: MOZAMBIQUE

Amount of Decision: EUR 2,000,000

Decision reference number: ECHO/MOZ/EDF/2006/01000

Explanatory Memorandum

1 - Rationale, needs and target population.

1.1. - Rationale :

Mozambique's geographic location, with its 2.900 km Indian Ocean coastline, and crisscrossed by several of Africa's major rivers as they flow into the ocean, predisposes it to various climatic phenomena such as erratic rainfall patterns, cyclones, floods and drought along its three geographic regions (North, Central and South). These phenomena can coexist in a paradoxical and cyclical situation where there are floods in certain areas of the country, whilst at the same time, other areas are subject to drought. Meteorological records show that flooding usually occurs during the rainy season, mainly during the months of October to April. Records of cyclones, dating from 1946, show that these also generally occur around the same time of the year along the coastline of Mozambique, with some occasionally moving inland. Historical references to drought show that the country habitually suffers from extremely dry conditions approximately every ten years with its greatest impact in the semi-arid areas of the country. In a typical example of this drought/flood cycle, two years of massive flooding in 2000 and 2001 gave way to a lower than usual rainfall in the southern and central regions of the country from the beginning of 2002. The 2003/2004 rainy season was characterized by irregular and insufficient rains in the south and central regions of the country, with overall good rains in 2004/2005. The latest SARCOF(1) climate forecast for the 2005/2006 rainy season indicates below-average rainfall, with chances of cyclones along the coastal areas. The prolonged drought that has continued right up to the 2005/2006 rainy season - and which is contributing to the extreme vulnerability which this decision seeks to address - therefore looks set to continue in these semi-arid areas. At the same time, and in a separate development, heavy rain in Malawi and more northerly areas of Mozambique has resulted in considerable localized flooding further north during January.

The exceptional maize harvest in the southern provinces in 2004 - a result of widespread planting prompted by continuous rains from January to April 2004 - was not repeated in 2005. In the north, however, although the rains were not as well distributed as in 2004, they were heavier and more than adequate to support slightly improved maize production from a slightly increased area. In the central region, where cereal production varied from above to below last year according to location and crop, rains started and finished earlier in a season characterised by heavy rains and dry spells. Overall, though maize production in Mozambique is only very slightly (about 1 %) lower than last year at 1,403,000 tonnes, the performance of maize in the three southern provinces (Inhambane, Gaza and Maputo) throughout both sowing seasons has been much worse than in the north, resulting in a 45.7 % reduction in the estimated regional harvest. On aggregate, cereal production (maize, sorghum, millet and paddy rice) is estimated to be 3 % lower than last year at 1,920,233 tonnes, though production of both millet and sorghum have declined severely in the south by 42 % and 37 % respectively and by 40 % and 26 % in the central provinces.

The marked regional differences in maize production and consumption, coupled with the high cost of moving the crop from the surplus northern and central provinces to the deficit south, are reflected in the high price differentials among regions. In October 2005, for example, the price of maize in the southern Maputo market was double that in the central provinces of Manica and Tete. Maize prices have been undergoing a seasonal decline in central and northern regions since March 2005, owing to this year's satisfactory harvest there. However, in the south and other drought affected market areas of the centre, prices are rising as a result of the poor harvest in 2005. Maize prices in the northern provinces of Mozambique are expected to increase as a result of the stronger demand from bordering southern provinces of Malawi, where harvests have also been reduced. Such inefficient and imperfect market structures and poor road networks further exacerbate food insecurity, as surpluses produced in the northern parts of the country cannot be economically transferred to the south. This situation looks, however, set to improve over the next few years, as funding for the construction of a road bridge over the Zambezi at Caia has now been secured to complete the main north/south road artery.

Against a background of general chronic food insecurity (54 % of Mozambique's population are living below the poverty line) in May 2005, the Vulnerability Analysis Group of the Technical Secretariat for Food Security and Nutrition of the Government of Mozambique (SETSAN-VAC) carried out an assessment on the ground, which identified a total of 428,234 people in situation of extreme food insecurity and in need of immediate food aid assistance, with a further 159,265 said to be at risk. These figures were similar to those of 2002 and 2003, with a marked fall in 2004(2), and were - in the relative context of Mozambique and the wider sub-region - not considered to be particularly alarming.

As the drought continued through the latter part of 2005, however, and the price of maize and other basic foodstuffs sharply increased (30-100 %) from June to October 2005, SETSANVAC carried out a second assessment in October which identified 801,655 people (4.4 % of the population) in a situation of extreme food insecurity, and in need of food aid until March 2006. The worst hit province is Tete (198,000 people affected), followed by Gaza and Inhambane (146,000 and 119,000 respectively). Significant numbers of households were found to be in desperate need and having to resort to negative survival alternatives, such as reducing the frequency of meals per day (caloric intake) and selling animals beyond the normal turnover.

The assessment was conducted in conjunction with a nutrition survey, as the country has a high chronic malnutrition rate among children under five (41 % in 2003), with no progress noted between 1997 and 2004. Preliminary results of the survey show that chronic malnutrition remained static at 36 % and underweight prevalence at 26 % among children under three years of age. Stunting amongst children suffering from chronic malnutrition is highest in the north (which is not affected by the drought) and lowest in the central and southern regions (most affected by the drought), which indicates that there is no direct correlation between chronic malnutrition and the drought.

Indeed, the SETSAN-VAC evaluation of October 2005, carried out in 35 districts in 11 provinces to assess the level and complexity of the vulnerability of the affected population, concluded that the most critical problem affecting the nutritional status of the most vulnerable was the lack of water, with up to 600,000 people being affected. The lack of access to quality water results from depletion of groundwater and subsequent drying of a significant number of shallow wells. This situation, combined with existing poor hygiene practices, is resulting in people using contaminated water, spending more time fetching water and reducing or stopping use of water for sanitation and hygiene purposes. This in turn leads to greater spread of water and sanitation-related disease, such as cholera, which is endemic in Mozambique.

The majority of those people badly affected by the drought live in the semi-arid areas in the south which traditionally have not been used for agricultural production due to unfavorable climatic conditions and very poor soil. People migrated to those areas in order to have their homes closer to the mining industry in South Africa, where male family members found work to provide for their families, who purchased food rather than grew it. As time has passed, however, there has been less and less work for them in South Africa, where many have contracted and brought back HIV/AIDS. Many households are therefore deprived of wage earners and livelihoods, burdened by disease, and struggling to cope in the harsh conditions of these semi-arid areas. These most vulnerable are often mixed together with others who have retained their livelihoods and are therefore better off, which makes it extremely difficult to identify and target them.

HIV/AIDS constitutes a major development threat to Mozambique with rapidly increasing prevalence rates. In 2004, 16.2 % of Mozambicans between 15 and 49 years of age were living with HIV or AIDS. The epidemic is exacerbated by gender disparities, poverty and limited access to basic social services and information.


(1) Southern African Regional climate forecasting office

(2) 590.000 in 2002, 659.000 in 2003, 108.000 in 2004