Mozambique: "The issue of natural disasters is very worrying"

News and Press Release
Originally published
MAPUTO, 20 October 2008 (IRIN) - In a country as poor and vulnerable as Mozambique, extreme climatic events can push entire communities to the brink of disaster. Unable to recover from the multiple impacts of floods, cyclones and drought, they are often sent into a downward spiral of poverty.

In the past three decades alone, Mozambique has suffered the impact of 35 hydro-meteorological disasters, affecting nearly 16 million people. According to Alexandre Tique, a meteorologist at Mozambique's National Meteorological Institute (INAM), most basic statistics point to an upward trend in natural disaster occurrence due to climate change.

"In the past few years in Mozambique the number of extreme climatic events has been on the rise. We have already gathered some information showing that extreme events are becoming more frequent. For example, we now see many more tropical cyclones that bring flooding, material destruction and loss of human lives.

"Mozambique's geographical location makes it particularly vulnerable. It is next to the Indian Ocean and is downstream from many of Africa's largest rivers. This, combined with low socioeconomic development, makes the country particularly vulnerable to climate change.

"We have always had tropical cyclones, floods, and in some parts of the country, drought. These events have always been cyclical but we are now facing the issue of a changing climate and see them happen more frequently.

"The parameter that is most illustrative of climate change is temperature. A simple analysis of the data gathered in our provincial capitals, where we have meteorological stations that have kept continuous data over the years, shows a clear increase in temperature.

"In our case, the issue of natural disasters is very worrying. While we do have access to some information about extreme events, it is difficult to circulate the information to everyone that needs it, because a very large percentage of Mozambique's population lives in rural areas. We also need to get better information from these areas to complete our picture of what is happening.

"The combination of floods and drought makes many communities particularly vulnerable. In times of drought people move closer to the rivers to farm because the land is more [fertile], and they settle there to be close to their land and crops.

"But when the floods come they don't have enough time to head for higher ground. The constant change between a situation of drought to one of flooding means these people are highly exposed.

"Mozambique is a very poor country, with limited resources, so we are not worried about who caused the problem of climate change, but more about how we are going to deal with the effects."