Mozambique aid ‘unequal to need’

20 September 2019

Cyclone left trail of ruined harvests and severe food crisis

DAVID MUTUA/TEARFUND

A young mother waits with her daughter for her turn to receive aid during a distribution at a Roman Catholic church in Chibabava district, Mozambique, in June, after Cyclone Idai hit the country in March

A young mother waits with her daughter for her turn to receive aid during a distribution at a Roman Catholic church in Chibabava district, Mozambique,...

ABOUT one million people — including up to 200,000 children — are suffering a food crisis in Mozambique, six months after Cyclone Idai struck the region causing widespread devastation.

UNICEF says that tens of thousands of people are still displaced as a result of the cyclone, and the majority of the region’s crops have been destroyed.

It warned that the number of children under five years old facing “crisis” levels of food insecurity is likely to rise to 200,000 in the storm-affected areas by February 2020. Even before the cyclone, nearly half the children in Mozambique were chronically malnourished. The country is one of the poorest in the world.

The Tearfund country representative in Mozambique, Edgar Jone, said that food prices were rising every day. “The harvest was destroyed. It was about to be harvested when the cyclone hit, and all the maize was instead washed away. In the market, the price of maize is going up every day, and there is a shortage of cereals.

“Tearfund is giving out foodstuffs and access to clean water, and also giving seeds and agricultural tools so people can grow short-cycle crops.

“But it is a huge challenge to meet people’s basic needs, where there is so much infrastructure damaged. Many schools are still without roofs, and the rainy season is due to start in November; so the children won’t be able to go back to school.”

In some areas, the cyclone destroyed 90 per cent of the infrastructure, including schools and hospitals, he said.

UNICEF said that it feared that the rising food crisis was forcing some girls into early marriage: cases of girls’ being married younger than 13 or 14 — which was the average age before the crisis — were being reported.

Funding is also much lower than is needed for the aid effort. The UN estimates that it has received only 33 per cent of the money needed to help Mozambique alone — and Cyclone Idai also hit neighbouring Malawi and Zimbabwe.

Cyclone Idai made landfall in Mozambique in March. Six weeks later, the region was hit by the tropical storm Kenneth. It was the first recorded time that two strong tropical cyclones had hit the country in the same season.

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