Many of the people who lost everything when Cyclone Idai swept through central Mozambique a year ago, continue to face devastating hardship, the UN food relief agency said on Friday.
While emergency assistance kickstarted the recovery of 1.8 million affected people, the strongest storm to ever hit the country has left many more facing an uncertain future, lacking the funding they urgently need to rebuild, the World Food Programme’s Regional Director for Southern Africa said in Geneva.
“For people who had their lives turned upside down, our projects – community farms, road and bridge repair, the rebuilding of schools – are a source of hope,” according to Lola Castro, and “this essential work must continue if we want to see real and lasting recovery.”
Idai made landfall in the vicinity of Beira in central Sofala province on 14 March at Category 4 strength, provoking one of the worst weather-related disasters to hit the southern hemisphere.
Months’ worth of rain, which fell in a matter of hours, swept through the central region with storm surges of 2.5m in height causing massive flooding that left entire communities submerged under 10 meters of water.
More than 600 lives were lost, some 1,600 were injured, and close to 2.2 million people were in need of urgent assistance, according to the UN humanitarian wing, OCHA.
Zimbabwe and Malawi also experienced massive devastation, with over 1.1 million people affected in both countries.
To make matters worse, just six weeks later Tropical Cyclone Kenneth hit northern Mozambique with wind gusts of up to 220km/h, making it the most intense cyclone ever to hit the African continent.
Nearly 35,000 houses were either partially or totally destroyed, the Government said, and more than 18,000 people were initially displaced.
In Sofala, the most damaged province, vital support for 525,000 people working on post-Idai recovery projects is at risk of a complete halt.
WFP maintained that as funding shortfalls last month forced food rations in half for those workers, $91 million are needed this year to fully implement rehabilitation projects for victims.
Emergency levels of food insecurity
Mozambique’s poorest were the most affected by the destruction.
Many of the 250,000 families whose homes were damaged are subsistence farmers, whose crops were completely destroyed and few have been able to return to their villages, let alone replant in time for the 2020 harvest.
Most people are now enduring “crisis” or “emergency” levels of food insecurity, said WFP. This means they do not have enough to eat, are foraging “for less-than-nourishing wild foods” and continue to need outside support to survive.
In a country with one of the highest rates of chronic malnutrition in the world, acute malnutrition is on the rise among Idai-affected communities – affecting 43 per cent of children under five.
Furthermore, a rare outbreak of Pellagra, a disease triggered by Vitamin B3 deficiency, has sickened almost 4,000 people in Sofala, with the numbers rising rapidly.
Climate change warnings
Heavily dependent on rainfed and smallholder farming, Mozambique is highly vulnerable to climate change.
UN weather agency chief Petteri Taalas called the devastation across Mozambique a “wake-up call” for vulnerable countries “to build resistance” against further high-impact tropical storms, coastal flooding and intense rainfall linked to climate change.
And WFP stressed that significantly more investment is needed in climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction.
“Boosting Mozambicans’ ability to withstand the impacts of increasingly severe drought and flooding was the core of our work before the cyclones struck”, concluded Ms. Castro. “It’s what we must resume now, and, with partners, step up in the coming years”.