Mozambique was hit by two tropical cyclones in early 2019, ‘Idai’ (landfall on 15 March in the port city of Beira / Sofala province, striking central provinces of the country) and ‘Kenneth’ (landfall on 25 April in Cabo Delgado, a Northern province already affected by armed violence). The cyclones caused significant damage to infrastructure and affected a total of about 1.7 million people (displacing 140,000 people), with at least 650 lives lost. More than 750,000 hectares of standing crops were destroyed. A cholera outbreak exacerbated the situation in the aftermath of the cyclones.
The Red Cross Red Crescent Movement took early action: Mozambique Red Cross (Cruz Vermelha de Moçambique, CVM) started activities ahead of landfall, supported by the three in-country Partner National Societies (PNSs). The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), in coordination with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), launched a major response operation, complementing CVM’s severely limited capacities.
The emergency operation is considered to be an overall success, with the right profiles in place at the right time shaping and implementing the response. Going forward, Movement activities in the cyclone operation and efforts for CVM’s own recovery need to be aligned, resulting in one masterplan. There is a risk of leaving CVM behind as fragile as before, if the Movement fails to unify approaches and plans in support of the National Society (NS).
Key findings and recommendations are as follows:
With regard to IFRC-Secretariat coordination, early deployment decisions were highly effective: the rapid response - in combination with a tremendous media footprint and external coordination - attracted donors. This turned, supported by efficient donor management on the ground and an early ‘preventive audit’, into successful resource mobilization with 80% appeal coverage at present.
There was no continuous IFRC senior presence at national level for strategic decision-making supporting CVM, for coordination with Movement Partners and for senior representation vis-à-vis external stakeholders. In the absence of a Country Office (CO) in states with limited Host National Society (HNS) capacities or other specific HNS challenges, IFRC Secretariat needs to ensure presence for major disasters by establishing a pool of ‘Emergency Head of COs’ or other senior representatives.
IFRC succeeded to deploy support/managementservice expertise out of its own ranks, while some ‘old challenges’ (with regard to IFRC’s finance, human resources [HR] and logistics processes) recurred. Building on the momentum of the current operation, the IFRC Secretariat’s Senior Management is called to prioritize mutual awareness and understanding of the at times conflicting priorities of operations and support/management services. There is a need for specific procedures to apply during the emergency phase of operations. In the absence of such procedures, IFRC will continue to impact the effectiveness and efficiency of emergency operations, which are a key component of IFRC’s portfolio.
The widely effective coordination between IFRC and ICRC was fostered by the pragmatism of actors on the ground, who put the humanitarian imperative at the centre, despite challenges related to the formalization of Movement coordination processes. The ‘Strengthening Movement Coordination and Cooperation’ (SMCC) Plan of Action requires further operationalization (avoiding time-consuming drafting and approval procedures of documents) and broader roll-out amongst operational leadership, supporting a ‘coordination mindset’. With a current perception of being focused on the relations between IFRC and ICRC, future efforts are required to chart paths for increased roles of HNSs and then PNSs in the SMCC Plan of Action.
Future operations will benefit from exploring and introducing good practice of systematically capitalizing on existing contextual (country and NS) institutional and individual knowledge, to support informed decision-making.
Movement actors have been struggling to integrate CVM given the limitations regarding CMV’s HR capacity and expertise. Following CVM’s early consent that IFRC had the freedom to shape and implement the response operation (issuing a ‘blank cheque’), CVM leadership and existing structures marginalized themselves, giving their primary focus on domestic contributions and internal issues. IFRC’s efforts to integrate CVM in planning and decision-making had modest success.
At present, it is essential to develop a unified and comprehensive CVM support strategy of all Movement components, aligning activities in response to the cyclones and CVM’s institutional recovery planning in one masterplan.
The cyclone response saw an unprecedented level of external coordination and cooperation at field level. IFRC filled gaps in external partners’ response, picking up an external coordinator role, which was highly acclaimed by the humanitarian community. The operation showcased that external coordination pays off, without negatively impacting the IFRC operation. IFRC Secretariat should further invest in developing guidance for NSs and Secretariat personnel on inter-agency coordination mechanisms and processes and systematically include external coordination in existing trainings.
However, the opportunity to profile CVM and the wider Movement vis-à-vis national and international coordination bodies at national level was missed. Strong operational results have not been shared or realized as much as they could have been outside the Movement. CVM and Movement partners are called to use the momentum of the recovery phase to establish presence in national inter-agency coordination fora, positioning the Movement as a key humanitarian actor.
Shelter Cluster (SC) Coordination at the Maputo level needs to be exempted, with IFRC’s leadership at the national level being effective and compensating external perceptions of CVM’s ‘sleeping’ partnership in their co-leadership role. Discussion on IFRC’s exit strategy for the SC needs to be started.
Surge Deployments were timely and widely effective. Some limitations exist for the efficiency of Emergency Response Units (ERUs) in health (over-dimensioned Emergency hospital) and water, sanitation and hygiene (ERU personnel capacities might have been downsized earlier / the deployment of a third ERU might have been avoided).
Despite existing pool capacity, African regional surge capacities were underrepresented (4.5% of delegates coming from African NSs), with given need to further operationalize the Surge Optimisation’s principles of equal access and local prioritization. Delegates from African IFRC Offices were well represented.
New IFRC surge tools, such as ‘Organisational Development in Emergencies’, ‘Volunteer Management in Emergencies’ and a ‘Partnerships and Resource Development Advisor’, as well as the Movement function of the ‘Movement Coordination Officer’, fostered successful implementation, with given need to refine the functions and invest in building expert capacity.
The premiere deployment of IFRC’s Assessment Cell (AC) was successful for ‘initial assessments’ (Phase 1) and the ‘recovery assessment’ (Phase 3), while stakeholders do not attribute added value to the ‘rapid assessments‘ (Phase 2). IFRC Secretariat needs to take a timely strategic decision on the AC’s scope (inter-agency level vs. IFRC level) to guide further development.
Ongoing revision efforts should include technical sectors and clarify the systematic cooperation with operational leadership, sectoral coordinators and support/management functions.