/ 10 May 2019

Conflict and cost hamper Mozambique cyclone response

Aid needs to ensure that the support will help Mozambique cope with long term redevelopment consequences of the storm.
Aid needs to ensure that the support will help Mozambique cope with long term redevelopment consequences of the storm. (Mike Hutchings/ Reuters)

It was never going to be easy for Mozambique, one of the poorest countries in the world, to respond to the twin cyclones that battered its central and northern coasts this year. Never before has the country been hit by two such extreme weather events in a single year: in total, between cyclones Idai and Kenneth, more than two million people were affected; 643 people were killed. Malawi and Zimbabwe were also badly affected by Cyclone Idai.

READ MORE: Cyclone Idai: After the floods, the famine. And then more of the same

But the recovery has been further complicated by two factors.

The first is the enormous cost of the humanitarian and reconstruction efforts.

In the short term, the United Nations has said $390-million is needed for the emergency response to the three affected countries to provide food, healthcare and accommodation. By early April, its emergency appeal had raised just $46-million, according to deputy secretary general Amina Mohammed.

“Beyond the emergency phase, we need to ensure sustained support that will help people and governments cope with the longer term development consequences of the storm, from shelter and health to food security,” she said.

READ MORE: Inside the SANDF’s budget crisis

The World Bank estimates that the cyclones have already caused direct economic losses to Mozambique of between $656-million and $773-million; a further $2-billion is required to help all three countries get back on their feet.

The World Bank has so far pledged $700-million to this effort, with $350-million earmarked specifically for Mozambique — a hefty sum, but still far short of what the situation requires. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), meanwhile, approved a $118-million rapid credit facility to the Mozambican government to help them deal with the aftermath of the cyclones.

News of the IMF’s loan was met with criticism in some quarters. “It is a shocking indictment of the international community that a country as impoverished as Mozambique has to borrow from international institutions in order to cope with the devastation caused by Cyclone Idai,” said Sarah-Jayne Clifton, the director of Jubilee Debt Campaign based in the United Kingdom.

The second factor complicating the response in Mozambique is the mysterious insurgency in Cabo Delgado province, which is also where Cyclone Kenneth struck.

READ MORE: The faceless insurgency in Mozambique that no one can explain

Over the past 18 months, armed militant groups have launched multiple attacks on villages and government buildings in the province, killing at least 120 people and prompting an equally brutal response from government troops. The cyclone has not deterred the militants, whose aims are unclear: this past weekend, at least seven people were killed in new attacks.

The violence has halted aid distribution in some instances, although the UN has promised to continue to provide humanitarian relief. It has also prevented voter registration in the region, ahead of presidential elections scheduled for October.