Real-Time Response Review – DEC programme for Cyclone Idai: Mozambique country report

Evaluation and Lessons Learned
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Executive summary

On 14 March 2019, Cyclone Idai made landfall in Mozambique, causing severe damage and loss of life in four provinces (Manica, Sofala, Tete and Zambezia). The storm led to massive flooding and displacement, a cholera outbreak, interruptions to agricultural and other economic activities, damage and destruction of homes, school closures, and lost assets and livestock. Mozambique is a low-income country and has suffered from economic crises as well as conflict and natural disasters (including drought) in the past. In the wake of the Cyclone Idai’s destructive winds and flooding , the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) launched an appeal to address the cyclone’s impact in Mozambique as well as the other two countries affected -- Malawi and Zimbabwe. Nine DEC members implemented the response in Mozambique: ActionAid, Age International, British Red Cross (BRC), CAFOD, Care International UK, Oxfam, Plan International UK, Save the Children UK and World Vision. Members are currently in Phase One (March 2019 – September 2019) of the response, with Phase Two due to start in October.
A real-time review (RTE) was commissioned by the DEC with the purpose of collecting reflection and learning in a participatory manner while the project is being implemented. In total 142 individuals contributed to the review, identifying best practices, sharing lessons learned, making recommendations and giving feedback on the preliminary findings. The review will be used to make program changes in different areas of the response during the final months of Phase One implementation as well as in the design of Phase Two activities.

Relevance and appropriateness of the response

DEC members’ response prioritised areas most affected by the cyclone winds and flooding.
Exclusion error (areas which were heavily affected not receiving interventions) was however flagged as an overall challenge (i.e. beyond DEC members) primarily due to limited accessibility.
In terms of sectoral priorities, all DEC members reportedly used participatory needs assessments to inform their respective programmes. Most of the needs assessment reports reviewed integrated protection concerns. Surprisingly for a Phase One response, the DEC’s funding in Mozambique had the largest share in livelihood activities, with WASH and health being the second and third most funded, respectively. Shelter was a distant fifth.2 This prioritisation does not fully align with inter-agency needs assessment prioritisation that cites Shelter and WASH as the main priority areas but is aligned with the areas prioritised by FGD participants.
Overwhelmingly, respondents and communities felt that available funding was too little to cover the variety and scope of needs. This is unsurprising considering the Mozambique Humanitarian Response Plan for 2019 in response to Cyclone Idai is only 46.6% funded.
The comparison between the members’ intended outcomes and planned outputs demonstrates a logical link between outputs and results both across sectors and DEC members. The review team did not find any activities that did not logically feed into the intended results. Survey respondents and informants also agreed that the design of the cyclone response was consistent with the overall goals and objectives. However, some of the outputs planned seemed too limited to meet the intended outcomes. Examples were WASH outcomes that were only related to water supply and had no sanitation or hygiene activities; livelihoods rehabilitation outcomes with seed distribution outputs but no pest control; or an outcome to increase access and use of basic health services which only had screening and sensitisation on malnutrition.

Effectiveness in achieving intended outcomes

This response review was mainly qualitative and did not focus on quantitative monitoring and evaluation data. Consulted the DEC members’ agencies were confident their response was on track to meet its intended objectives. FGD participants and key informants alike found the response to be timely, in particular thanks to pre-positioned stocks. The relatively swift containment of the cholera outbreak is a prime example of the effectiveness of the response.
Several activities, notably with regards to the distribution of shelter materials and seeds were however held up by procurement delays and/or accessibility issues and as a result have not been as timely as they should have. Certain organisations were able to adapt to these challenges and modify their response to the changed and changing needs of communities. For example, the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD) changed to zinc sheeting and timbers when their plastic sheet procurement was delayed, as communities informed them that this was their preference. Similarly, ActionAid changed a planned dignity kit distribution to a seed distribution based on beneficiary feedback.
Agility and adaptability have been mentioned as a strong suit of the response. One of the primary reasons for it being the flexibility of the DEC funding, which was lauded by all interviewees.
However, the lack of flexibility in terms of modality presented a barrier to effectiveness. The National Institute for Disaster Management (INCG), the governmental body in charge of natural disaster prevention and mitigation has consistently opposed using cash grants and has only anecdotally authorised the use of vouchers. This response is no exception, drastically limiting the choice of modality DEC members can use.
Finally, effectiveness was also limited by unforeseen challenges such as the impact of fall armyworms, which wiped out much of the first crop planted after the storm.

Accountability to affected population

All DEC members have agreed on an Accountability Framework. 3 As part of their organisational commitments towards accountability, DEC members are using the Core Humanitarian Standard on Quality and Accountability (CHS) to improve the quality and effectiveness of the assistance provided through collaboration with other agencies and through clusters.
In line with their CHS commitments, DEC members put in place thorough measures to ensure community participation across the project cycle. The vast majority of FGD participants consulted knew why they had been selected and were aware of the targeting criteria. The majority of the Focus Groups had at least one participant who knew of at least one way to share feedback and raise a complaint. Yet suggestion boxes and Linha Verde4 appeared to be over-relied on by some agencies, despite high levels of illiteracy and insufficient access to phones and mobile network.

Sustainability and connectedness of the response

As the response is still in its first six months, it is not yet linked to a long-term plan or strongly connected to pre-existing development activities. Phase One was meant to be an emergency response and was designed as such. It focused on basic needs coverage and livelihoods, paving the way to early recovery. Unsurprisingly, there were no disaster risk reduction activities included in the Phase One.
The environment is a particularly relevant cross-cutting issue when looking at cyclone responses.
As for an earthquake, the destruction of infrastructure following a cyclone may increase pollution levels in the atmosphere and water. 5 However, this is still an issue given low priority by humanitarians. Mozambique is no exception and most key informants did not have information on the environmental impact of the response.

Coordination and complementarity

Key informants thought that the coordination among humanitarian agencies in the Cyclone Idai response was strong in both bilateral and multi-lateral forums. In Mozambique, the National Institute for Disaster Management (INGC) is the governmental body in charge of natural disaster prevention and mitigation. Coordination is primarily done from Beira City in Sofala Province, where all major clusters are active. The District Administrator’s Office also held regular coordination meetings but those tended to be poorly attended. Participation to cluster coordination fora by DEC members varies significantly from one member to another. Language barriers and a lack of familiarity with the clustersystem reduced participation in the clusters themselves -- particularly during the beginning of the response.


Cyclone response presents unique challenges: physical access is difficult in the first few days and communication is made difficult. Overall, the DEC’s response to Cyclone Idai can be a considered a success. It contributed to the quick containment of the cholera epidemic; provided a flexible source of funds that allowed members to adapt quickly to changing circumstances; addressed the needs of targeted communities according to the will of those communities; and made efforts to build accountability with affected populations.
Phase One response in Mozambique is unique as it presents a strong focus on livelihoods. The sectoral prioritisation of the response in Mozambique tends to demonstrate that DEC members have prioritised those needs expressed by crisis-affected households. This understanding can and should be developed pre-crisis, to increase the effectiveness and timeliness of future responses.
There is a high likelihood that environmental disasters will hit Mozambique again in the coming years. Preparing for future disasters would help strengthen the gains made in this response and protect people from the worst effects.


  1. Considering improved physical access, expand the geographical scope of the intervention to areas with unmet needs.

  2. Consider carefully the balance of resources between resettlement sites and communities.

  3. Continue advocating with the INGC for the use of CVA and document the use and effectiveness of vouchers to allay government concerns.

  4. Strengthen agricultural activities so that they are more resistant to shocks.

  5. Collaborate with other DEC members on joint procurement and delivery of items, market assessments and the sharing of supplier and vendor lists.

  6. Improve the follow-up and assistance to beneficiaries of livelihood activities (particularly seed distributions) and conduct post-distribution monitoring for up to two months following distributions.

  7. Improve the referral process by better monitoring where referred beneficiaries go and which services they receive.

  8. Ensure that planned outputs are appropriate to achieve the desired outcome.

  9. Use DEC membership as an opportunity for horizontal learning, joint risk assessment and the exploration of better programme alignment.

  10. Improve attendance and collaboration with Cluster representatives and members, as well as government officials, to better support the overall response and reduce disparities in geographical targeting of activities.

  11. Conduct consultations with different communities to understand which complaints and feedback mechanisms are most safe and accessible for different community groups; conduct regular follow-up with post-distribution monitoring (PDM) assessments to measure use and perception of CFMs; diversify ways of communicating with communities; and adopt mechanisms which are child-friendly and accessible for persons with disabilities (PWD)/older persons (OP).

  12. Ensure beneficiary data is safely collected, stored and transferred when they call Linha Verde. Make sure there is an appropriate response to Linha Verde complaints about DEC MA. Raise awareness of the hotline with beneficiaries.

13.Make extra efforts to meet Core Humanitarian Standard Commitment 9: Resources are managed and used responsibly for their intended purpose. This can be done by sharing project information with community members, including on budgets and resources, to improve accountability.

  1. Identify important environmental and sustainability considerations; adapt projects to be more environmentally sound; seek to reduce vulnerability to future storms in shelter projects; and tailor Phase Two plans to incorporate resilience and drought preparedness.

  2. Increase consideration of long-term resilience in Phase Two project design; collaborate with research and development institutions and agencies; and set project outcomes and indicators which include resilience as a target impact.

  3. Involve long-term staff in the design of Phase Two response.