First the Cyclone, now the contagion. Northern Mozambique is reeling from nature’s blows over the past year.
On 25 April 2019, the Category-4 tropical Cyclone Kenneth struck the communities of some 280,000 people. The Province of Cabo Delgado, which borders Tanzania, is marked by displacement due to insecurity which generates important humanitarian needs. In February 2020, cholera was identified, affecting hundreds of people. Now COVID-19 brings a new threat.
IOM’s presence in Mozambique had ramped up in the six weeks following the arrival of the Category-4 Cyclone Idai, so it was well positioned to support the Government of Mozambique in Cabo Delgado where the Organization is now working on cholera relief, the provision of critical relief items to displaced populations and the government’s COVID-19 response.
“While many families in Cabo Delgado are still working towards recovery one year after Cyclone Kenneth, and are affected by insecurity, yet another challenge has arrived in the form of COVID-19,” said IOM Mozambique Officer-in-Charge Laura Tomm-Bonde.
“These families are already very vulnerable. We must continue to urgently work together with the Government of Mozambique and humanitarian partners in this high-risk period to ensure that the necessary information and health resources are available for vulnerable communities to have access to basic essential services, and to strengthen prevention measures against the spread of COVID-19.”
Mozambique announced its first COVID-19 case on 22 March, and on 23 April reported 46 cases (eight imported and 38 local transmissions), most located in the capital Maputo and Cabo Delgado province. According to Ministry of Health data, the largest number of cases have been identified in Cabo Delgado (26 cases), all due to local transmission.
Cabo Delgado is especially vulnerable to contagion. The province has one of the highest HIV infection rates in Mozambique. There is concern that COVID-19 would be difficult to control if it spreads within those communities.
Cabo Delgado province also lies along an international migration route, with migrants coming from the Horn of Africa bound for South Africa. Its border attracts migrants from neighboring provinces, as well as from nearby Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Tanzania, who conduct artisanal mining. Many miners and community members live in poor conditions.
Thus, COVID-19’s reach into Cabo Delgado compounds other vulnerabilities. Displaced families are living in crowded spaces with host families, which could put them at higher risk of contagion. That makes IOM’s shelter support for displaced families ever more critical.
IOM has been supporting the provincial health authorities in their preparedness and response activities and contributing to community awareness-raising efforts on COVID-19 prevention measures. The Organization has equipped Activities youth volunteers with megaphones and backpack sprayers to spray public transport vehicles with chlorinated water, and is conducting awareness-raising at public gatherings and message in local languages like Macua, Muani and Maconde.
IOM also provides vehicles with megaphones to spread prevention messages.
IOM’s ‘It's Our Right’ project, aimed at improving access to sexual and reproductive health information, is adding COVID-19 to its curriculum for the training of 200 change agents in parts of Cabo Delgado.
These change agents include migrants, young people and sex workers, who will conduct mobilization activities and awareness raising sessions on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, HIV, and COVID-19. The training is implemented in partnership with the INGO CUAMM; the project is funded by the Embassy of the Kingdom of Netherlands in Mozambique.
After the passage of Cyclone Kenneth, IOM and partners provided immediate emergency relief through the provision of emergency shelter and non-food items (NFIs) to more than 45,000 families, which included tarpaulins, toolkits, blankets, and other critically needed items.
IOM provided 2,200 families with construction materials and labour support to build resilient shelters. IOM retrofit seven cyclone-damaged public buildings and provided Camp Coordination and Camp Management (CCCM) support in displacement sites.
IOM provided mental health and medical counseling for over 2,000 people, referrals to 470 patients for specialized medical care, and psychosocial support activities for over 33,000 people. In addition, the HIV/TB programme identified over 1,300 individuals whose treatment had been interrupted, nearly 700 of whom were successfully reintegrated to treatment.
The emergency cholera response reached its height in the first quarter of 2020; IOM helped the Health Department missions to set up cholera response treatment centres, which evaluated and helped treat over 190 people and reached over 7,100 others through a variety of awareness raising activities.
IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) has expanded its operations to 19 districts and, in coordination with the National Institute for Disaster Management (INGC), conducted eight baseline assessments capturing population estimates and geographic distribution, sectorial needs and access to services.
DTM also conducted eight Multi-Sectorial Locations Assessments in five resettlement and transit sites in Cabo Delgado and Nampula provinces: According to recent DTM reports, 6,655 individuals remain displaced in resettlement and transit sites.
IOM is providing multisector support to families affected by insecurity, inclusive of Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS), Protection, emergency shelters and NFI, together with coordination of the Shelter and CCCM Cluster, to the extent possible and when access permits. In the past three months, IOM provided emergency shelter support and NFIs to more than 5,600 families across four districts that have received displaced people due to insecurity.