Months After Cyclone Idai, OCHA Says 2 Million People Still Need Assistance in Mozambique

More than three months after the Cyclone Idai that ripped into central Mozambique, causing massive flooding and leaving behind a path of destruction, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says over 1.8 million people are still in need of humanitarian assistance.

OCHA which mobilises and coordinates humanitarian assistance to people in need worldwide said more than 600 people died in the cyclone and that an unknown number are still missing.

Six weeks after Idai hit, Mozambique was hit by Cyclone Kenneth, impacting more than 370,000 people in the North. This was the first time in recorded history that Mozambique has been hit by two cyclones in the same season, raising serious concerns about the destruction climate change will wreak in the future.

The tireless work of the government, with national and international humanitarian organisations, backed up by the international community meant the UN humanitarian assisted more than two million people with emergency food, water, shelter and medicine.

But analysts say people will feel the full impact of the cyclones for months and years to come, as farmers have lost nearly 800,000 hectares of crops, and entire villages will need to be rebuilt.

So, more than three months on, OCHA has enunciated reasons why people in Mozambique still urgently need help.

The UN agency said after the cyclones hit, the initial outpouring of support was impressive. The world rallied to deploy rescue teams, food and medicine supplies and other assets. But 100 days on, the world’s attention has moved on.

‘’The Humanitarian Response Plan for Mozambique is 35 per cent funded, with just $151 million out of the $441 million needed. At the same time, the government and development partners’ need an estimated $3.2 billion to rebuild damaged infrastructure’’, OCHA said.

When Cyclone Idai hit Sofala Province in central Mozambique, farmer, Florinda’s small rice plantation was completely flooded. Three weeks after the storm the flood waters receded and Florinda was finally able to return. Only then she realised she had lost almost everything. ‘’It looked like it had been burned, it was all dry. The leaves were torn, it seemed as if someone passed a knife in the middle of them ripping everything’’, she recounted.

Florinda was able to salvage some of the rice, but not enough to feed her three daughters until the next harvest, in March of next year.

More than 770,000 hectares of crops were destroyed by Cyclones Idai and Kenneth in what was already the difficult lean season. As a result, more than 2.2 million people need food assistance in the affected Sofala, Manica and Cabo Delgado provinces.

Monica left her house in Dondo the night Cyclone Idai hit with the flood waters already reaching her knees. The roof had been blown off and two bedrooms had already collapsed. The first time we met her, Monica was living in a camp some kilometres away from her house. One hundred days on, her situation has not improved though she has returned home with nine family members. She has managed to make rudimentary fixes to parts of the roof that remain, but the mud walls are still full of holes.

‘’They promised we would receive some tools to fix the houses, tarps, blankets… But we received only food’’, said Monica. With her crops destroyed and no money to smaller-start her fruit-selling business, she can’t raise the funds to repair the family home. ‘’I don’t know what to do.’’

The cyclones destroyed or damaged nearly 285,000 houses but lack of funding means aid agencies cannot provide durable rebuilding materials for the people who need them. As a result, tens of thousands remain in tents.

Solene da Cunha is taking shelter with her husband in a settlement in Guara Guara, near her destroyed home in Buzi town. Despite many of her own personal challenges, Solene is also taking care of children who are separated from their families and is volunteer teaching in a child-friendly space in the camp.

Cyclone Idai destroyed more than 3,500 classrooms while Kenneth damaged a further 480, affecting nearly 380,000 students. Although dozens of temporary learning spaces have been created, hundreds of thousands of children in resettlement sites cannot attend school. School is a protection lifeline for children and helps instill hope for the future. But out of the $22.5 million requested for education activities, only $700,000 has been received.

According to OCHA, since she arrived at the resettlement centre, Isabel’s health has considerably deteriorated. Living with HIV and a disability in one leg that prevents her from performing some activities, Isabel is now also suffering from recurrent diarrhoea, coughing and nausea. ‘’I don’t have money to buy charcoal to cook… I cannot go for wood either, because it’s far and I am not strong enough. I share part of my food with other families in exchange for wood to cook’’, she told the humanitarian agency.

It is common for health conditions to worsen in crises. With 113 health facilities said to be damaged by the cyclones, many cannot access even basic healthcare, including essential reproductive care. At the same time, the storms contaminated water sources, significantly heightening the risk of communicable diseases, including cholera and malaria and other water-borne diseases. Cholera outbreaks were declared after Idai and Kenneth, and the number of malaria cases keeps increasing.

‘’When we asked Elza, a young mother from Beira, if she had ever heard about climate change, she looked confused and immediately said no. But the answer to the next question, if she had ever seen something similar to Cyclone Idai in Beira, she did not hesitate: I have never seen anything like this. We had floods here before, but nothing like Idai.

‘’Although storm-prone, this was the first time in recorded history that two cyclones made landfall in such close succession in Mozambique. At the same time, Mozambique has been facing a critical rain shortfall that has caused chronic drought and food insecurity.

‘’The southern region of the country has experienced seven droughts in the past decade. Urgent action is needed to help communities prepare for and respond to climate change. Without it, repeat crises will become the rule, rather than the exception for Mozambique.

‘’100 days on, the world must show the people of Mozambique that they have not been forgotten’’, OCHA said.

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