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UNICEF update on Mozambique crisis

On 27 March 2019, men from Buzi load the food aid brought in by the World Food Program (WFP) helicopter onto a tractor. © UNICEF/UN0293263/DE WET

Earlier this year, Mozambique experienced two powerful tropical storms that have left the less developed country in distress.

“In March and April 2019, Mozambique was hit by two consecutive tropical cyclones, impacting several coastal areas, bringing a path of destruction and damage to the Sofala, Cabo Delgado and Nampula Provinces in central and northern parts of the country,” states a situation report issued by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), which is also known as UN Migration.

“Cyclone Idai, a category-4 cyclone, made landfall near Beira city on 14 March, with winds blowing at over 220km/h and causing the death of 603 people and affecting over 1,500,000 people,” states the IOM situation report covering May 17-31, 2019.

In the wake of the devastation caused by Cyclone Idai, Mozambique was struck with another hammer blow just weeks later. “Cyclone Kenneth made landfall in northern Mozambique on 25 April, with 200km/h winds impacting several coastal areas, bringing a path of destruction and damage to the Cabo Delgado and Nampula Provinces, resulting in the death of 45 people,” states the IOM report.

In this edition of, Daniel Timme, Chief of Communication for UNICEF in Mozambique, answers a series of questions about the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Mozambique.


Global Report: In the wake of Tropical Cyclones Idai and Kenneth, how would you describe the state of Mozambique?

Daniel Timme: “The cyclones have directly affected 1,85 million people who need humanitarian assistance, of which 1 million are children. They need shelter, food, medical aid, drinking water and protection. As we are slowly moving out of the acute emergency phase and into the recovery phase, we are planning for more sustainable solution

s to answer to these needs. Instead of trucking clean drinking water to the communities, we are beginning to drill boreholes to build wells, in addition to schooling children in tents, we are now beginning to rehabilitate destroyed schools. We also want to make sure that these things are built back in a better way, so that they can withstand future disasters and make communities more resilient.

“There are still 65,000 people in Mozambique who are displaced. For these people the temporary emergency shelters and camps are now closing. Families are being resettled to assigned plots where they can start a new life. UNICEF and other humanitarian actors are working under high pressure to insure that these families are finding basic services in the resettlement sites, like drinking water, shelter, health care, emergency schools. These will also have to be converted in more permanent structures and solutions soon.”

Global Report: How much damage has been done to the physical infrastructure of the country by the cyclones? For example, is there clean water to drink and bathe in? Are roads and bridges badly damaged?

Daniel Timme: “The destruction of infrastructure in Mozambique is immense. A post disaster needs assessment undertaken by the Mozambican Government with support of the humanitarian community has estimated that 3,2 billion USD will be needed to rebuilt the affected areas. This includes besides the above mentioned humanitarian aid, repairs on basic infrastructure, like roads, communication lines etc. Of these 3,2 billion, 1,2 billion have been pledged now during an international donor conference which was held in Beira last week.

“The drinking water supply in the urban areas affected had indeed been destroyed by the cyclones. It was a major success of UNICEF in collaboration with Dfid and the Goverenment of Mozambique that the water supply in the biggest city of Beira with 500,000 inhabitants and other towns could be reestablished within 10 days. This together with a mass vaccination for 900,000 people was crucial to contain the outbreak of the Cholera in central Mozambique and potentially saved thousands of lives. Now it needs to be insured that rural areas and in particular new resettlement areas also receive sustainable drinking water supplies. Until then drinking water needs to be transported to these settlements and water purification products need to be distributed.”

Global Report: How extensive is the damage to Mozambique’s hospitals and health clinics? What impact is the damage to health infrastructure having on child and maternal health?

Daniel Timme: “113 health facilities were damaged during the cyclones. UNICEF and partners are working to insure that basic provisional health services are provided to the affected population, in particular in resettlement areas. In the post disaster setting children are particularly at risk to get waterborne diseases like cholera and respiratory diseases. These things can easily be treated, but if they are not taken care of properly they can quickly become life threatening to children.”

Global Report: Were schools badly damaged? Are children able to go to school?

Daniel Timme: “Approximately 5,000 classrooms have been destroyed during the cyclone, putting more than 300,000 children in need of education assistance.

“It is very important that the children go back to school as soon as possible for several reasons: 1. Education should not be interrupted for too long. 2. Schools give the children a sense of normality and safety in an otherwise chaotic and traumatizing situation. 3. When children go to school, it provides us with the opportunity to monitor them for problems, ie exploitation, abuse, malnutrition and health problems, as well as psycho-social needs.

“Therefore we are working with partner to provide schooling in temporary learning spaces for thousands of children and the number is growing. At the same time we are starting to rehabilitate destroyed schools and we want to build them back better to be more resilient to new disasters.”

Global Report: How big is the economic impact of the devastation? How does the economic impact affect children?

Daniel Timme: “The destruction of the economic life base for thousands of people puts in particular women and children at risk of sexual and other exploitation in the forms of prostitution, trafficking and child labor. It is therefore very important that UNICEF monitors children in safe spaces for signs of abuse and that families are supported through voucher and cash transfer programmes.”

Global Report: The cyclones did extensive damage to the agricultural sector. What does this mean for children and their families?

Daniel Timme: “More than 770,000 hectares of agricultural land and crops have been destroyed in central and northern Mozambique. The missing harvests will lead and is leading already to a severe increase in cases of Moderate Acute Malnutrition (MAM) and live threatening (Severe Acute Malnutrition) SAM.

“A recently conducted screening of around 400,000 children in Sofala province revealed 3,470 cases of MAM and 380 cases of SAM. Acute malnutrition is a major cause of death in children under 5, and its prevention and immediate treatment are critical to child survival and development. UNICEF works with mobile units to identify malnourished children and refers them to further treatment with therapeutic milk and food.”


Follow Geoffrey P. Johnston on Twitter @GeoffyPJohnston

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