Mozambique + 2 more

Real-Time Response Review – DEC programme for Cyclone Idai: Synthesis report – Mozambique, Malawi, Zimbabwe

Evaluation and Lessons Learned
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Executive summary

In March 2019, Tropical Cyclone Idai swept through three Southern African countries (Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi), killing at least 900 people and leaving around three million in need of assistance after causing catastrophic flooding and wind damage. 2 Over the past decade, a mix of extreme weather conditions (including flooding and droughts), economic shocks, and political crises hit Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi, eroding households’ resilience to new shocks and ability to cope with financial hardship and food insecurity. Additionally, prior to Cyclone Idai, fall armyworm has damaged food and other crop production, and remains today a significant threat to food security and livelihoods.
Cyclone Idai damaged and destroyed homes, hospitals, roads, schools, and farms. The storm compromised safe water and sanitation and led to a cholera outbreak in Mozambique; reduced access to basic health services; and swept away or damaged food, documents, and other household assets. It created or exacerbated protection risks, particularly for vulnerable groups such as persons with disabilities (PWD), older persons (OP) and children.In Mozambique, after the closure of emergency and transit accommodation centres, 63 permanent resettlement sites have been established in which 66,118 internally displaced people now live.5 Many of these permanent resettlement sites lack basic services, including latrines and water provision.6 In the wake of Cyclone Idai’s aftermath in March 2019, the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) launched an appeal to address the cyclone’s impact in the three countries of Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Nine DEC members are implementing the response in Malawi and in Mozambique, while seven DEC members implement the response in Zimbabwe. 9 The DEC response is currently in Phase One (March 2019 – September 2019), with Phase Two due to start in October 2019.
A real-time review (RTR) 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, 421 individuals contributed to the review by 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.
This synthesis report complements the three country reports by providing overarching findings and recommendations. It can be read in conjunction with the country reports or as a standalone overview of the DEC members’ response to Cyclone Idai.

Relevance and appropriateness of the response

Geographical targeting aligned with the areas hit by the cyclone. Inclusion error (areas that were not heavily affected receiving interventions) was not cited as a problem of this response. However, in Mozambique, and to a lesser extent Malawi, exclusion errors (areas which were heavily affected not receiving interventions) were flagged as a challenge for the entire cyclone response (i.e. not just DEC members), primarily due to limited accessibility.
DEC members made a deliberate effort to accurately assess the needs of populations affected by the disaster and used participatory needs assessments to inform the sectoral priorities. Most of the assessments shared with the review team included information on protection issues facing the population. Those were then used to tailor the responses to distinct needs and vulnerabilities of different groups.
The sectors that received the most funding were not always the same as those that had been deemed a priority by inter-agency need assessments or by focus group discussion (FGD) participants. Livelihoods was one of the most funded sectors in Mozambique and Malawi, however, the agricultural activities did not always correspond with the seasonal calendar for the locations and did not include pest control in districts that were subsequently heavily affected by fall armyworm. In Mozambique, shelter was surprisingly only the fifth most-funded sector despite being highlighted as a priority both by FGDs and assessments.
Across all countries under study, respondents and communities interviewed felt that available funding was insufficient to cover the variety and scope of needs. Unmet needs included shelter (particularly permanent shelter materials), clothing, and access to crucial infrastructure such as roads and bridges.

The comparison between the members’ intended outcomes and planned outputs demonstrates a clear logical link both across sectors and between DEC members. The design of the cyclone response is consistent with the overall goal and objectives. In specific instances, however, the outputs planned appeared to be limited in meeting the intended outcomes. For instance, in Mozambique, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) outcomes were only related to water supply and had no sanitation or hygiene promotion activities.

Effectiveness in achieving intended outcomes

Interventions by the DEC member agencies were found to be fairly effective. Key informants from DEC agencies, across all three countries, were confident that the planned outcomes were being achieved, with the exception of some delays as well as adaptations based on changing circumstances. Procurement issues and government restrictions on cash and voucher assistance (CVA) in Mozambique increased delays in delivery of in-kind items and reduced cost-effectiveness. A sudden directive by the government of Zimbabwe to stop provision of temporary shelters forced DEC member agencies to change plans and made it difficult for the consultants to determine the effectiveness of the shelter interventions.
Similarly, although they indicated avenues for improvement such as an increase in the provision of food aid, discussions with the communities gave qualitative confirmation on the satisfaction of affected communities who received assistance from DEC members.
The timely delivery of assistance was area-, organisation-, sector-, and modality-specific.
Timely delivery was often possible in instances where agencies had enough start-up funds to initiate the response and/or had pre-existing stock. Nonetheless, across countries, key informants and communities reported some delays in procurement processes due to legal requirements, lack of access to certain areas of intervention (particularly in Malawi) and issues with disbursement procedures. As such, some shelter distributions in Mozambique still have not started. Such issues with procurement raised questions amongst the consultants regarding the extent to which implementing organisations had a good understanding of how local markets function. The timeliness of the response also depended on the modality used by the organisation. Agencies which used cash grants reported more delays than those which used in-kind. This can be the result of a lack of experience and preparedness at agency level (e.g. lack of framework agreements with Financial Service Providers).
Overall quality and diversity of the assistance provided was deemed good both by key informants and crisis-affected households. Nonetheless, some issues with the quality of the hybrid seeds distributed in Mozambique were reported, as was a quality gap in referrals to health services for patients with chronic illnesses, nutrition patients and, potentially, for survivors of gender-based violence (GBV).

Accountability to affected population

In line with their Core Humanitarian Standard on Quality and Accountability (CHS) commitments, DEC members in the three countries of intervention put in place thorough measures to ensure community participation across the project cycle. The views of crisisaffected households were given consideration in the assessment phase through gendersegregated needs assessments.
Across all countries, the vast majority of FGDs participants knew why they were part of the programme and understood that interventions targeted specific groups. Despite this, some contention existed between beneficiaries regarding the extent to which the targeting was fair (especially for food assistance in Zimbabwe).
DEC members in all three countries have endeavoured to ensure that multiple complaint channels were available to beneficiaries of their programmes. These mechanisms ranged from confidential to more public mechanisms, including suggestion boxes and toll-free numbers, face-to-face mechanisms such as help desks, local beneficiary committees, contact numbers for agency staff, and use of local leadership. Suggestion boxes that were very common in Malawi raise the question of access in a country with a low literacy rate.
The use of a hotline in Mozambique also tended to be over relied upon, raising questions in terms of access but also in terms of data protection. Beneficiary awareness regarding the existence of such complaint mechanisms differed strongly depending on the location.
Although only a small number of beneficiaries interviewed had used such a mechanism to submit a complaint, some of those who did reported that measures were taken by DEC members on the basis of the feedback they provided.

Sustainability and connectedness of the response

Across the three countries of intervention, Phase One was designed as an emergency response. As such, it rightly focused on the provision of assistance aiming to cover basic needs. There were no disaster risk reduction (DRR) activities in any of the countries of intervention.
The strong focus on livelihoods activities across all countries of intervention is a good indicator of DEC members’ willingness to pave the way to early recovery. DEC members consistently across contexts included activities that aimed to prepare the country for longerterm needs and various DEC members have endeavoured to link emergency and longerterm programmes. In Malawi, many humanitarian actors, including DEC members are now considering engaging with social protection programmes.

One of the main barriers to closer links between emergency response and longer-term development efforts was the lack of involvement of development team members in the design and implementation of the Phase One of the response, with the notable exception of the COSACA consortium in Mozambique.
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. 10 However, environmental considerations were not prioritised by the Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe DEC responses; most key informants did not have information on the environmental impact of the response (i.e. how their activities affect the environment). Those who did discuss the environment only mentioned that they were considering how to incorporate building back better (BBB) and DRR in their shelter and livelihoods activities, especially as the threat of future cyclones remains high for these communities. Only one DEC member, the Red Cross, is undertaking a “green review” to assess the impact of its operations on the environment and environmental considerations in its activities.

Coordination and complementarity

DEC member agencies in each country face different set of issues related to coordination.
In Mozambique, many of the stakeholders (DEC member agency staff, implementing partners, and government representatives) speak either English or Portuguese but not both, meaning that many of them are blocked from participating in meetings held only in one of those languages. Second, many local organisations were or are not familiar with the cluster system and found it hard to navigate, which resulted in some partners not being very active in the coordination fora.
Informants in Zimbabwe reported a different set of issues. For them, the most important challenge was the numerous layers of coordination in place at the beginning of the response, with up to four or five coordination meetings taking place each day.
In Malawi, informants reported gaps in district level coordination as well as delays to set up the coordination of the response. For instance, cash amounts currently differ across agencies, due to delay in guidance from the Cash Working Group.
Overall, informants reported regular participation of DEC members to coordination meetings and willingness to share. There is no specific DEC-level coordination mechanism, and, rightfully, no intent to add one, so the RTR workshops were often the first occasions DEC members had to meet and discuss as DEC since the start of the response. DEC member agency staff found the sharing of ideas and challenges as DEC members to be beneficial and expressed the desire to continue doing so, potentially with future learning and planning workshops.


Cyclone response presents unique challenges: physical access is difficult in the first few days and communication is constrained by infrastructure destruction. In spite of those challenges,
DEC’s response to the Cyclone Idai can be a considered a success, in so far that it provided a flexible source of funds that allowed members to adapt their responses quickly to changing circumstances, addressed those needs the targeted communities’ expressed as being the most relevant, and made efforts to build accountability to affected populations (AAP) into the response. DEC members’ global organisational commitment towards the CHS cascaded down at country level. The intended level of participation of the communities in the response was high from the start and aligned with CHS commitments. However, it should be further increased over time and after the first few weeks of the response.
Cross-cutting issues such as gender and protection were incorporated at all stages of the response, but environmental considerations should be prioritised. There is a high likelihood that environmental disasters will hit Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe again in the coming years, whether it be a drought in a coming agriculture season or another cyclone.
Preparing for possible future disasters would help strengthen the gains made in this response and potentially protect people from the worst effects of another disaster.
One of the DEC response’s strengths was that the diversity of its members allowed for an array of best practices and lessons learned to be seen in this review, saving other members time and effort in identifying better ways to implement. DEC funding is the ninth largest source of funding for the appeal in Mozambique and the fifth in Zimbabwe, hence making significant contributions towards covering crisis-affected households needs.11 What DEC members have done organically, especially in Malawi, to increase coherence between humanitarian and development actions, should be capitalised upon and systematised going into Phase Two.


  1. Look out for potential issues related to land tenure and lack of identification documents.

  2. Favour the repair of existing structures and advocate with the governments to turn to resettlement only as a last resort measure.

  3. Use transitional shelters with care and prioritise permanent shelter solutions.

  4. Consider conditional assistance for Phase One only, to support debris-clearing efforts.

  5. DEC to track CVA as a modality not as a sector and ensure consistency with cash learning partnership (CaLP) glossary.

  6. Use DEC membership as an opportunity for horizontal learning, joint risk assessment and explore better programme design alignment.

  7. Ensure all DEC members and partner organizations know what DEC is.

  8. Ensure crisis-affected households have multiple channels to provide feedback and complaints.

  9. Analyse, use and support markets including the labour market.

  10. Define in a participatory manner what being resilient means.

  11. Ensure joint analysis for Phase Two design.

  12. Identify important environmental considerations for the response.