An unexpected and deadly cyclone in Mozambique has accelerated the country’s climate emergency preparedness. Now, a multipronged strategy including flood-resistant homes, community-based information dissemination and advanced electricity infrastructure is helping the southern African country to adapt to and cope with the frequent, intense weather conditions associated with climate change.
More killed than Cyclone Idai after making landfall outside Mozambique’s port city of Beira in 2019 1,000 people in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and MalawiActing as a wake-up call to fast-track the country’s resilience and adaptation to climate change, say experts from the World Food Programme, Caritas and the Swedish International Development Agency.
Cyclone Idai, along with Cyclone Kenneth that followed weeks later, displaced millions More than 1.5 million others across the region are in need of food and health assistance, as well as other support for their destroyed livelihoods.
Samir Fayed, energy, environment and climate change advisor for the Embassy of Sweden in Mozambique, said the huge need for food, health and livelihood restoration assistance stretched global resources and forced humanitarian organizations to divert funds to other programs for the Mozambique crisis. forced to do.
More than three years after Cyclone Idai’s impact shocked many with the reality of climate change-related impacts and worsening natural disasters, Claudia Mungunde still has the days and weeks to come after Cyclone Idai’s impact Vivid memories.
Mungunde, employed by Save the Children as a community emergency responder, recalls a lingering stench of rotten flesh after Cyclone Idai receded.
He told Earthbeat about the devastated and helpless look on the villagers’ faces at the sight of their damaged houses and desolate property.
“It was terrifying and messy, with villagers who literally had to wake each other up and barely escaped with their livelihoods shattered on the night of landfall and in the days that followed,” says Mungunde, who now works with Caritas. Served as Communications Manager for Mozambique, said .
“Many others could not survive because it was a sudden disaster, with no preparation or advance warning of the horrors to come,” he said.
As the first responder to the humanitarian crisis after Cyclone Idai hit, Mungunde stressed that the lack of preparedness and adaptation had made the situation intolerable.
But Mozambique’s preparedness has been strengthened through adaptation since then, explained Costa Lambato, food security and livelihoods officer for Caritas Mozambique.
In an interview with Earthbeat, Lambetto said, “The government and some partners are building resilient homes to withstand any future impacts and this means that many people are now housed in shelters that are designed like this.” can better withstand the aftershocks of
“There is also better information dissemination and sensitization about the emerging and potential impacts of cyclones,” Lambetto added. “And most people in at-risk areas have moved to safer areas.”
Caritas is also supporting clean energy infrastructure in Mozambique by installing solar-powered boreholes for people living in protected areas.
According to the United Nations Environment Programme, about 60% of Mozambique’s 33.3 million people live in its coastal areas, and the vulnerability of the country’s coastline to sea-level rise continues to increase.
Mozambique as a country is one of the most affected African countries by climate change due to two extreme climate change impacts. Its northern region is prone to cyclones and floods, while the central and southern regions suffer from drought and prolonged drought.
2022 saw the country hit by Cyclone Gombe, which damaged Nampula province in Mozambique’s northeastern region in March, weeks before tropical cyclones Ana and Dumako also made an impact.
total number of People affected by the storm increased to 736,000. according to local officials.
In the southern regions, Caritas runs a lean season livelihood program to provide food and household supplies during the most vulnerable times of the year, as well as a crop cover program that helps thicken soil and retain water .
Caritas distributes canavalia seeds, an inedible legume plant, to communities in Gaza Province, enabling them to grow the crop which is used as green manure for the soil. Soils in drought-prone areas are no longer fertile, and soil cover is minimal due to the loss of plant life. Canavalia seed distributes nutrition in the soil and increases soil cover, helping to bring life and fertility to soils devastated by prolonged drought.
Other organizations are also stepping up to support Mozambique’s preparedness and adaptation to the effects of climate change.
Christian Grassini, climate resilience and food systems activity manager for the World Food Program in Mozambique, told Earthbeat that “climate change adaptation is a very long-term process” that needs to take into account the immediate and long-term needs of those affected.
“We know that throughout the process, climate change impacts will persist, so we need a multi-layered response and adaptation system that preserves small gains for vulnerable communities throughout the process.”
For example, WFP’s multi-pronged adaptation program for Mozambique includes “social protection” through micro-insurance payments and humanitarian assistance in the face of uncertain agricultural yields from rainwater surpluses or deficits.
WFP’s climate change adaptation strategy also includes technology that ensures accurate weather forecasts and makes this information available to communities as an early warning and preparedness mechanism.
The UN agency has paid micro-insurance to farmers in two provinces in Mozambique and is launching payments in Gaza as a third province this year to reduce agricultural productivity losses due to drought.
The micro-insurance mechanism is based on the level of rainfall received in a particular season which helps determine the payout requirement. Grassini said that some 711 families, or 3,500 people, have benefited from these payments in the Shibutu district of Gaza province.
“The money is used to compensate for the damage,” Grassini said. Given the uncertainty of rain, harvests will be lower. We know Cyclone Idai is evidence that climate change-related shocks are increasing in number and intensity. “
Grassini believes that Mozambique’s government has consciously woken up to the realities of speeding up policies around climate change adaptation. At COP27, the United Nations climate conference held November 6-18 in Egypt, the Mozambican delegation was led by President Filipe Nyusi, who is also the African Union champion for natural disaster risk management.
“The premise is that there must be political will to create strategies and policies on adaptation. When we look at Mozambique post-Cyclone Idai, there is political will now to unlock the implementation of adaptation and resilience strategies,” Grassini said.
While Mozambique is one of the largest producers of hydroelectric power in southern Africa, its electricity generation infrastructure suffers from the effects of climate change, droughts and cyclones.
This is an area that the Swedish International Development Agency Sida is also working on to improve the adaptability and flexibility of electricity infrastructure.
When Cyclone Idai hit, Sida assessed the severe damage to the Mavusi hydroelectric power plant in Manika Province.
A project to rebuild the power plant and upgrade it to withstand future impacts is now complete, power transmission lines have also been shifted to areas where they will not be affected by floods.
“We have just completed the repair and upgrade of that hydroelectric station, which has improved its adaptation to future climate shocks,” said Fayed, who is involved in the Cida projects in Mozambique.
“Through this, we have fixed the future problem, ensuring that it will not have as severe an impact as before.”
Mozambique government launched $6 million project due in February 2022 A conservation and nature restoration program for the capital and surrounding cities of Maputo to protect its shores from the effects of climate change.
Experts say that natural ecosystems provide a buffer against storms and floods. The project will positively impact a population of approximately 3 million people including Maputo, Matola and Boane.
“The Greater Maputo region, home to more than three million people, is already severely affected by floods, cyclones, erosion and sea-level rise,” said Vetela Zone of the Ministry of Land and Environment. UNEP press release,
With the support of development and humanitarian partners, Mozambique is “implementing local climate adaptive living measures” aimed at accelerating the “building of resilient infrastructure” capable of withstanding natural events, Mozambican Minister of Lands and Environment Ivete MyBuzz said at the conference in Stockholm in June last year.
Giselle Jenna was working as the Community Emergency Coordinator in Manica Province when Cyclone Idai hit.
She recalls March 14, 2019, as a “sleepless night”, as information had emerged just hours earlier that a major cyclone was on its way.
It was a tense night, she tells Earthbeat in an interview in Maputo. “Knowing that the cyclone was coming towards the city, it was very stressful and I was very scared,” she said.
Since 2019 when Mozambique was hit twice by cyclones, it has suffered tropical storms and cyclones every year. But Gena says Mozambique has improved its preparedness for future climate change impacts.
Gena said, “In 2019, Idai hit and we probably weren’t prepared, but since then, everyone including the government has been working hard knowing that this will unfortunately be a reality again.”