Mozambique: Thousands at risk of disease and malnutrition as rainy season begins
By Winston Mwale
The damage wrought on water, sanitation and hygiene facilities by the two cyclones are in part responsible for the increased health risks
More than half a year since cyclones Idai and Kenneth hit Mozambique, thousands of people are at risk of disease outbreaks and worsening food insecurity during the coming rainy season.
Food insecurity is expected to affect 2 million people in Mozambique by early next year and nearly 38,000 children are currently at risk of malnutrition. Communities affected by recent cyclones are among those that are at risk.
The damage wrought on water, sanitation and hygiene facilities by the two cyclones are in part responsible for the increased health risks. Communities in the most impoverished areas of urban and peri-urban Beira have inadequate water and sanitation facilities, exposing families to diseases.
Dr Jemilah Mahmood, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ (IFRC) Under-Secretary-General for Partnerships has been in central Mozambique leading a high-level delegation of Red Cross officials and donors visiting areas affected by cyclones Idai and Kenneth. She said:
“The rainy season poses a real threat to the health of communities that are already extremely vulnerable. Mozambique is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world. We have seen a clear trend of these disasters increasing.
“We know future disasters will strike; we cannot prevent them. But we can massively reduce their impact by investing in local humanitarian capacity, by improving sanitation and hygiene practices and infrastructure, and by building stronger shelters that can weather storms.”
The devastating human and economic toll of cyclones Idai and Kenneth are in major part due to a lack of this kind of anticipatory or preventative investment and programming.
In May, IFRC reported that the price tag attached to Red Cross and UN response operations after the two cyclones was roughly 1,000 times the 340,000 Swiss francs that IFRC released before Idai made landfall to help evacuate and prepare at-risk communities.
Dr Mahmood said: “This is one of the most painful and pertinent lessons of Mozambique: investments in preparedness are critical to reducing human suffering and saving countless lives. We call on governments, donors and humanitarian actors to do more to prevent and reduce the impact of future disasters here in Mozambique.”
The Red Cross is working with affected communities to prepare for the coming rainy season as well as future disasters.
This includes reconstructing homes that are flood and wind-resistant, supporting community outbreak prevention and helping farmers grow stronger crops to tackle food insecurity.
The Red Cross has provided more than 192,000 people with emergency relief and continues support those most vulnerable by providing shelter, health, water, sanitation, hygiene promotion, food assistance, psychosocial and livelihood support.